The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) estimates that women hold only 26 percent of computing-related jobs, despite making up 51 percent of the workforce. Companies have sometimes cited women’s lack of interest in technology. Parents, schools and society are typically blamed for the computer science gender gap.
But an article published by the New York Times this April points to another reason — women often leave the tech field because of its hostile work environment. According to the NYT, when women leave science, engineering and technology (S.E.T.) position, 51 percent move into a non-S.E.T. job — seven percent take a non-S.E.T. job within the same company, 24 percent take a non-S.E.T. job at another employer and 20 percent take time out of the workforce.
Described as a “bro culture,” women cite pervasive sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Some of the behaviors that turn a place of business hostile or uncomfortable include the following:
- Constant come-ons
- Sexually degrading comments
- Disregard for their input
- Impenetrable glass ceilings to the advancement
- Work sabotage
- Intimidation, often anonymously on social media sites
- Threats for speaking out
Adding to the problem is the fact that tech startups tend to lack structure and protocol. What at first appears to be counterculture looseness may actually contribute to the marginalization of women and give them fewer opportunities to report incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination. When women do complain about the offensive and antagonistic conduct of their peers, they often face backlash and further ostracism.
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) explains that the culture of gender discrimination is bad for women and bad for the tech industry. IT positions offer women some of the highest paying jobs available. In addition, women can help corporations design and create products with female users in mind, and thereby attract an important sector of the tech market. But a hostile work environment inhibits victims and affects their ability to do their jobs.
Moreover, gender discrimination and sexual harassment are against the law. Victims of inappropriate or unfair treatment at work in New York should report it and consult an employment attorney for legal support.