women and technology

Retention – A Red Flag for Women in Technology

The Problem

One of the main issues across the board with women and technology is retention once they are employed in the field. Various women within the technology field, as well as texts related to the subject, have addressed this issue. Kathryn McClintock, from Amazee Labs, noticed that women are quitting at a rate of 57%. McClintock felt this desire to leave is a result of the macho culture and work pressure that females are facing today, reiterating her belief that the “bro culture” is the root of many problems with women in technology (McClintock, 2014). Amara Keller, from Intel, echoed this belief when she discussed retention on a more personal level. She explained how she had witnessed 5 females leave Intel due to problems with the male dominated culture (Keller, 2014). Erin Pettigrew, from Gawker, used an interesting metaphor that provided a new perspective on the issue. Pettigrew started by explaining how she viewed women in tech as market challengers while men could be seen as market leaders. She then went on to compare women in technology to Google doc and men as Microsoft office. Anyone who knows computers knows that Microsoft office is far more established than Google doc in regards to popularity and features. This comparison suggests the lack of women prevents them from rising to the level of men and, furthermore, having a significant presence in the technology field (Pettigrew, 2014). Amy McDonald-Sanjideh, from Google, pondered the reasons why women leave the technology field. She concluded it has to do with either career growth, the desire for more money, seeking a career change, dealing with a difficult manager or the decision to start a family (McDonald-Sanjideh, 2014) While all of these may be valid reasons, it still leaves us with a lack of women in technology as a result. As for readings that address this issue, Maria Klawe wrote an article called Women in Computing- Where Are We Now that explains the key stages women drop out of tech and reasons why they choose to leave. By explaining the problems women face at certain stages in their life, such as college, for example, it allows those in power during these difficult stages to understand the key problems and make adjustments accordingly (Klawe & Leveson, 1995). Finally, the article entitled Technology’s Man Problem by Claire Cain Miller, discussed how half of women in STEM leave. While this research is shocking in itself, it is even more discouraging that 51% leave to do something different while 49% remain in technology (Miller, 2014). The fact that more are choosing to leave the field suggests this is a problem that needs to be resolved with urgency.

The Intentioned Goal

The most optimistic outcome arising from this video would be a overwhelmingly positive response from women within the field that results in more women feeling inclined to join technology. This is the ideal response because the video would not only increases the retention rate but it has the potential to discourage women who were considering leaving the field from going through with that decision. Thinking realistically, however, the best outcome would be the influence that multiple viewings has on the general public in regards to getting people talking about this issue. These conversations, hopefully on the news, social media by using the hashtag (#) FlagIt or even on comments under the YouTube video, will increase awareness and prompt people to bring about change.

The Solution

In deciding upon a solution to this problem of retention, once can’t help but incorporate the recent technological advances in our society. Furthermore, in addition to these advances, there has been an increased presence online that is exemplified by visual storytelling. Large technology companies such as Microsoft and Google have been latching onto this trend by releasing videos that not only promote technology, but also provide a glimpse on women within their specific company. While some of these videos have gone viral and made an impact, the results could be greater.

A solution to improving the retention rate would be for some of the most influential tech companies to unite behind this cause and make a video that promotes women and technology. This video will be aired as a commercial in addition to being uploaded on every company’s YouTube account. The ideal companies for this project would be Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter as they individually have a reliable following and are all forces to be reckoned with in the technology community. This combined effort would suggest the companies are coming together for an amazing cause rather than only being concerned with the status of their own companies. Furthermore, their willingness to take a stand on such a controversial issue will ideally make a difference and inspire women to reconsider the next time they are ready to leave the technology field. In addition, having the same message distributed from six different platforms would allow this issue to reach people multiple times, considering many people use a combination of these companies, and the numerous viewings could potentially have a positive impact on viewers.

This movement can also become a social media campaign since half of the companies participating are a form of social media. At the end of the video, #FlagIt would be displayed on the screen in red. The hope is that, once released, the hashtag will trend as a result to the video trending. FlagIt is an acronym for Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter and the hashtag will be red to symbolize a red flag. Red flags usually signify a warning of danger or a problem and this is certainly relevant in regards to this issue. While FlagIt is an acronym for the companies involved, it is more important that people realize this is not an issue to take lightly and that if action is not taken fast, the technology field is in danger.

As for the specific layout of the video, there are a few necessary parts that will ensure a successful outcome. The first being the incorporation of women in the field.   The video will begin by following a woman at Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter. The footage would be edited together so even though we are following different women, it seems as if the viewer is receiving one perspective. This first part is meant to symbolize a day in the life of a women in the technology industry; therefore, it would be best to see some footage in a meeting or collaborative atmosphere to show how a woman’s opinion diversifies the workplace.

The next step is the incorporation of those in management. There would be a transition to those in higher positions in the office. Regardless if they are male or female, they can discuss the value of the women in their company and the desire for more. While the footage will be, again, edited together, it will be easy to identify which company the person is from due to their shirt or a lower graphic on the screen. This is critical because it reiterates that this video is for a greater cause, not something to promote one company in particular.

Most importantly, at the end, right when people are left wanting more and wondering how they can make a difference, #FlagIt will appear on the screen to act as an encouragement to keep the conversation going. Accompanied by the right music, this 3 minute video will allow an inside look into each of these companies that will trigger an emotional response from viewers. If successful, it not only has the potential to start a larger video campaign, but it can bring about the change that the technology industry so desperately needs.

 

Works Cited

Keller, A. (2014). Women in tech-what can you do? Personal Collection of (Amara Keller), Intel, Hillsboro, OG.

Klawe, M., & Leveson, N. (1995). Women in computing-where are we now? Communications of the ACM, 38(1), 29-35.

McClintock, K. (2014). Findings on women in tech. Personal Collection of (Kathryn McClintock), Amazee Labs, Austin, TX.

McDonald-Sandjideh, A. (2014). The tale of a texan in silicon valley. Personal Collection of (Amy McDonald-Sanjideh), Google, San Francisco, CA.

Miller, C. (April 5, 2014). Technology’s man problem. Retrieved December 6th from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html?_r=0

Pettigrew, E. (2014). Problems with women in tech. Personal Collection of (Erin Pettigrew), Gawker, New York City, NY.

Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen, NASA

Dr. Kimberly Hambuchen is a robotics engineer in the Software, Robotics and Simulation division at NASA Johnson Space Center. On Wednesday, October 8 she gave a talk about “Exploring Space with Robots: Do We Need People?” to the Fall 2014 Lennox Seminar Women and Technology class at Trinity University.

 

Why Women Leave Tech Careers

We often hear of the shortage of women in the science, engineering, and technical (SET) fields and it is easy to be discouraged by such dismal statements. However, we are wrong to assume that these smart, tech-savvy women are not attracted to this career field. In fact between the ages of 25 and 30, 41% of the young talent with credentials in science and technology are female.[1] This is surprising news, given the fact that we tend to underestimate how many women are in these fields. And yet, of these women more than half leave their careers in their mid-30s to early 40s. Why is that?

In an interview with Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center for Work-Life Policy in New York, Hewlett re-examines some of the factors that contribute to this claim. Hewlett is best known for her work on a research project called the Athena Factor[2], a global study that examines the career trajectories of women in these SET fields. The study found that women are instrumental to the industry, often more likely to than their male counterparts to value contributing to society. So what happens later on down the road for these women? The falling out happens through what Hewlett outlines as 5 key factors or “antigens” that include: hostile macho cultures, isolation, mysterious career paths, systems of risk and reward, and extreme work pressures.[3]

Each of these adversities are problems that cannot always be addressed so easily, especially when it comes to changing the ingrained mindsets of the macho culture. The manner in which women are treated branches out through these instilled stereotypes. In order for women to overcome these issues, I believe that there must be more women in leadership, who in turn mentor the younger, entry-level women who are in danger of feeling “stuck or stalled” in these fields. If there were more respected female role models in higher positions, the younger women would be more inclined to stick through the negativity because there would be a clearer picture of what their own careers could achieve.

[1] Melymuka, K. (2008, June 16). Why Women Quit Technology. Computerworld. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.computerworld.com/article/2551969/it-careers/why-women-quit-technology.html

[2] CTI Athena 2.0 Launch. (2014). YouTube. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=farVyP3vgBA

[3] Hewlett, S. A. (2008). The Athena factor: reversing the brain drain in science, engineering, and technology. Boston: Harvard Business School.

Women & Technology in the 1910s

Women's Trade Union League

Formed in 1903, the Women’s Trade Union League worked alongside the National American Woman Suffrage Association to demand safe working conditions, the eight hour work day, and respect for women both in and outside of the work place.

The photo above is courtesy of Cornell University’s Kheel Center.

For additional reading on the Women’s Trade Union click here.

factory

With Americas involvement in World War I in 1917, many women supported the war by entering the workforce, particularly as factory workers. The women in this photograph are inspecting automatic pistol parts.

Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress.

For more information on the roles of women in WWI visit The National Women’s History Museum.

fire

During the War women not only took to the factories to do their part, but began occupying stereotypicaly masculine occupations in society such as fire-fighting. As seen in the image above entitled “Doing a Man’s Job: Women As War-Time Fire-Fighters” a group of women are seen practicing a drill.

The photo was published in National Geographic in 1917, and can be found through wikimedia.

Click here to see more images from the April 1917 issue of National Geographic.

electricity

While electricity remained expensive, the 1910s saw a surge of domestic electricity. As seen in this image, women were encouraged to see electricity as a means of using new, more “practical” and “efficient” electric powered home gadgets such as the electric clothes iron.

This image is courtesy of Museum Victoria. For more information on Home Life/ Electricity in the 1910s click here.

phone phonograph

Although the telephone was invented years earlier switchboard systems and the integration of electricity in the home highly increased the prominence of a home telephone in the 1910s. The telephone which was originally intended exclusively for business use soon became integrated as a form of social communication for all people, women in particular.

Both this advertisement (left), and the photo of a woman with the Edison Phonograph (right) were found through Pinterest and are fall under the creative commons licence.

Women and Technology in the 1970s

recording history #2-lillian schwartz

Above is artist Lillian Schwartz during the 1970s. Schwartz is considered a pioneer in the field of computer-generated art. Schwartz worked on what is known today as graphics, animation, special effects, multimedia, and more. For more information on Schwartz and her work visit her website with her biography and list of projects.

This photo was found posted in the section PORT of the site portlandart.net An exhibit in in Portland during 2011 featured some of Schwartz’s work.

 

 

Recording history #2-dishwasher

This advertisement comes from the 1970s and shows a woman as a decoration next to a dishwasher, rather than interacting with the appliance. This ad focuses on the fact that the appliances can now come in multiple colors. For more information on the household/technology relationship in the 20th century read this Association for Consumer Research report.

This ad was found on the digital platform Flashbak that aims to collect and display photos from the past.

 

 

recording history #2- megabyte micro

This advertisement is of the IMSAI Corp. that recognized the potential in the microcomputer industry early on. The rest of the article and another gallery shows more computer advertisements from the 1970s.

This ad was found on a website that identifies itself as a place that “helps IT decision-makers identify technologies and strategies to empower workers and streamline business processes.”

 

 

recording history #2-computer class

This is a photo from an early computer class at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO. For more information read this Washington Post opinion piece that explores the role women played in computing through history, and why there are fewer women in tech today.

This photo was found in the Lindenwood University library. It and other photos from the class of 1970 can be viewed in this file.

 

 

recording history #2-IBM

This is a photo of “office personnel with an IBM System/34 data processing system in 1977.” Read this description from IBM for more information on the IBM System/34.

This photo was found in the IBM archives on women in technology.

Women and Technology in the 1950s

1. After years of struggle during World War II, the 1950s were an exciting time not only because the servicemen returned home, but due to the technological advancements.  Many were married and established their households which resulted in women typically fulfilling the roles of housewives.  Even though technology was increasing during this time, women’s main interaction with it was for household purposes such as chores.

1

The picture above picture depicts a woman advertising home appliances in the 1950s.

The photo is courtesy of SSPL/Getty Images.

A key quote that encompasses the expectation of women at the time reads, “During the 1950s, the role of women was generally considered to be that of the ‘homemaker’. Bright television and magazine advertisements encouraged women to stay at home and create a domestic haven for their families using the new appliances on offer.”  To read an analysis of this quote and learn more about the stereotypical female role in the 1950s, see the article that discusses a decade of change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. One home appliance that has remained a key necessity over the years is the washing machine.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 7.10.48 PM

In the picture above, women watch a demonstration of the latest in washing technology circa 1950.

Credit for this photo goes to Express, UK.  

For more information, see a report on the Persil washing detergent by Express News.

 

 

 

 

3. A keypunch is a device for punching holes into stiff paper cards determined by the keys struck by a human operator.  During the 1950s, this was the primary method for business data processing and many women had this job.

2

The photo above shows two women discussing their work while entering data onto punched cards at Texas A&M in the 1950s.

This photo is courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library Archives, Texas A&M.  

For additional information on keypunch, read this excerpt from the world-information website.

 

 

4.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 6.36.20 PM

Here is a photo of a woman with the first commercial modem – the AT&T Dataphone.  

The photo is courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center.  

For more information on this modem as well as other technological inventions during the 50s, please see this article from tech radar.

 

 

 

 

5. Despite these many advances, women were not typically given an opportunity to obtain the technical jobs.  If they were not maintaining a household or being considered for secretarial work, they were viewed as a way to help with advertisement for these new technologies.  An example of this is the use of women workers in Britain for early advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 6.50.39 PM

On the left on the photo above is an advertisement while the photo on the right shows a real female employee operating the Electronic Multiplying Punch (Emp) at LaPorte Industries.

Both photos appeared in the Powers-Samas Magazine in the 1957 and 1958 issues.

To read information on the contrasting representation of women in advertisements versus their role in reality, please see Marie Hick’s blog post.

 

In conclusion, even though it was relief to see an end to Would War II, the 1950s still had its fair share of obstacles for women and their relation with technology.  Luckily, we have seen some improvements since then and can keep learning from this history as time progresses.

The Complexity of Women Helping Women In the Tech Industry

When looking at the numbers of  women in technology, especially computer science, we find that they are far outnumbered by male associates and CEOs[1]. And it can be discouraging for women pursuing careers in this industry. This is particularly applicable to the female entrepreneurs at the investment stage of a new technology company. For example, when pitching to an audience full of male investors, women are often turned away without real consideration for their products or ideas regarding technology, simply because they are female[2]. One straightforward solution to this problem is that women should pitch to women, or rather startups that cater to women, and they will have better luck. While this might be true and very beneficial to female entrepreneurs, it is a complex solution.

This solution appears beneficial on a surface level, but in reality it also reinforces women as the “other” in the world of entrepreneurship and startups. It almost gives male investors an excuse to push aside female startups and direct them to female investors. Many women realize this and openly acknowledge that this furthers the idea that women can’t thrive in a male-dominant field.  In the article by Issie Lapowsky, “This is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like” from Wired, Danielle Weinblatt, Founder and CEO of the company Take the Interview, admits she is frustrated with this so-called solution[3]. Before she closed the deal for her company, Weinblatt was often redirected to female investors. She understood this was meant to be a solution to her being turned down by male investors, but it made her “feel like being a woman is something to overcome”.[4] In other words, it might be comforting for women to seek other women on the grounds that their gender won’t be held against them, but it also means that women are unable to break through the “bro-culture”.

Part of the complexity of women entrepreneurs seeking funding specifically for women, is admitting that we need these companies. There are empowering and progressive intentions behind these companies[5]. Yet at the same time, it says something about how women may not be able to go past this. Women should eventually be able to pitch to male investors without any concerns that gender could hold them back.  According to Scarlett Sieber, vice president of Operations at Infomous, if we keep business exclusively between women, we aren’t making as much progress as we could if we included men[6].  If there was a balance of sorts, perhaps as long as we encourage female and male investors, it won’t necessarily be understood as a handicap to some. As we have often said in class, in order to make some major changes, we have to start small. Perhaps starting small means admitting that sometimes women need to help women, while also including men in the conversation about the gender gap.

[1] Miller, Claire. “Technology’s Man Problem”. New York Times. 5 April 2014. Web 16 Sept. 2014

[2] Lapowsky, Issie. “This Is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like”. Wired. 28 July 2014. Web 16 Sept. 2014

[3] Lapowsky

[4] Lapowsky

[5]  Casserly, Meghan. “Tipping the Scales: Women Angel Investing Reaches All-Time High”. Forbes. 25 April 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014

[6] Sieber, Scarlett. “Including Men in the Conversation About Women”. Huffington Post: The Blog. 02 June 2014. Web 17 Sept. 2014.

Women led start-ups less likely to receive venture capital funding

When someone says ‘high-tech entrepreneur,’ the first thought that comes to my mind is not typically ‘woman.’ More often than not the first things are probably, ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ or (more generally stated) ‘men.’ This is because often times, companies started and run by women are overlooked or discredited by investors simply because women are at the helm. Now, this is not always an overt display of discrimination[1], but rather investors invest in what they are comfortable with; a practice called “pattern matching,” or “trying to invest in founders who remind them of other successful entrepreneurs”[2]. And even though high-tech start-ups founded and run by diverse groups are more likely to succeed[3], women led start-ups are far less likely to receive venture capital funding. [4]

The fact is, 40 percent of privately owned businesses are owned by women, but only about 10 percent of “venture-backed start-ups” are led by women.[5] In a report published by Illuminate Ventures, a venture capital firm that seeks out “innovative business ideas led by committed and talented teams,” the author found that not only were women-led, high-tech companies successful, they were also more “capital efficient than the norm.” The study found that the “average venture-backed company run by a woman” had similar “early-year revenues,” using an average of “one-third less committed capital.”[6] In a separate study sponsored by Dow Jones, start-ups with “five or more” women were 61 percent successful compared to 39 percent that failed.[7] However, research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation revealed that between 2004 and 2007 women started merely three percent of technology firms, and one percent of high-tech firms.[8]

These numbers are staggering, especially considering that in 2012 “an estimated 126 million women were starting or running new businesses in 67 economies around the world.”[9] Where is that statistic in the high-tech industry? Where are women venture capitalists? All of the shortcomings found in The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report can be attributed to status expectations and gender roles in business and in the technology industry. It is unfortunate, but true that these gender biases exist in modern business. Women should not be discriminated against (either overtly or covertly) because of their gender. Venture capitalists need to be more aware of the changing climate for business; it’s no longer an all-boys-club. As the trend obviously shows, if venture capitalists intend to make money in the years to come, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to look to new, innovative, and women-led companies.

[1] Kelley, Donna J., Candida G. Brush, Patricia G. Greene, and Yana Litovsky. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report. Rep. The Center For Women’s Leadership, 31 July 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

[2] Chafkin, Max. “The Ugly Truth about Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem.” Fast Company. N.p., 12 May 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014.

[3] Canning, Jessica, Maryam Haque, and Yimeng Wang. Women at the Wheel: Do Female Executives Drive Start-Up Success? Rep. Dow Jones and Company Inc., Sept. 2012. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

[4] Gates, Lisa. “Do Women Have a Unique Genome for Startup Success?” Forbes. Forbes, Inc., 13 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

[5] See footnote 4

[6] Padnos, Cindy. High Performance Entrepreneurs: Women In High-Tech. Rep. Illuminate Ventures, 1 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

[7] See footnote 3

[8] Robb, Alicia M., and Susan Coleman. 2009. Sources of financing for new technology firms: A comparison by gender. The Kauffman Foundation.

[9] See footnote 1