Gender bias can be described as prejudice or discrimination against one gender. It can describe discrimination against men or even against women. Gender bias has been attributed to social norms, rules, and attitudes that encourage one gender to devalue the other (Caprino, 2016). In most settings, especially the technology (tech) sector, the victims of the gender discrimination are women. This essay discusses the media representation of gender bias in regard to why women are discriminated against in the tech sector and what can be done to combat this discrimination. The tech sector is a male-dominated field and women suffer from discrimination which hinders their chances of excelling in the field.
Gender Bias in the Tech Industry
Women form the minority in the tech sector. In the tech sector in Australia, for instance, women account for approximately 30% of the workforce which is way below the national average of 46.2% in all sectors of the economy (Charleston, 2017). Charleston (2017) also points out that this percentage drops down to a mere 14% when considering the percentage of women in executive roles in the industry. These statistics alarming but the situation is not as bad as it is in the United States where 57% of all employees are women whereas on 25% of employees in the tech sector are women. Anderson (2016) attributes the low number of women in the tech industry to the fact that women do not feel that the jobs in those are "glamorous." With women being the minorities in this industry, they are subject to discrimination.
Interestingly, there is a perception that jobs in the tech sector are man's jobs' and women are discouraged from pursuing these careers. Women who pursue careers in the tech sector are discriminated against by receiving lower wages when compared to their male counterparts or not receiving promotions even when they are the most qualified employees for the promotions. Kolhatkar (2017) tells a tale of a woman who wanted to join the tech company in sales after working for several years as a pharmaceutical salesperson. The woman realized that Tesla was growing rapidly and it was offering employees huge opportunities for advancement in their careers. In 2013, she was hired as a product specialist in Tesla's sales department, and she initially thrived in her role, and within a year she was promoted to the rank of a project coordinator in Tesla's factory (Kolhatkar, 2017). It was at this futuristic factory that the lady discovered something was wrong at Tesla. She worked closely with a group of other eight employees who were all male and she discovered that she was earning a salary which was less than her colleagues'. Even fresh graduates from campuses were earning more than her at the company. When an opportunity for promotion came, most of her colleagues were promoted, but she was not. Her complaints fell on deaf ears as all her superiors were male. In the end, she had to sue the company. This is the sad reality facing women in a sector that has improved the standard of living of the world enormously. Women are being denied opportunities they have availed to themselves via hard work due to their gender. There are several factors that have led to gender discrimination in the tech sector.
Sexual discrimination in the tech industry has been blamed on beliefs by the decision-makers in the industry that men are more technically competent when compared to women. There is a belief in the industry that it is more feasible economically to invest in male technical staff when compared to women (Furlong, 2017). This belief leads the entrepreneurs into investing larger budgets into the male stuff and this, in turn, leads to increased productivity when compared to the women staff. This higher productivity by male staff is used as statistics to show how men are more effective employees. This bias can not only be blamed on unconscious bias by key decision-makers in the industry but also believes in alleged scientific proofs of differences between genders
Gender stereotypes have also been attributed to gender bias against women in the tech sector. It is perceived that men are more authoritative than women and thus are more influential. The tech sector is considered as a masculine field, and thus women in that sector are considered less influential and less effective (Caprino, 2016). Many tech organizations are not ready to suffer from the social penalties resulting from the violation of socially-accepted gender stereotypes.
The culture of the tech industry operates in such a way that it discourages women from pursuing careers in the industry. The set-up of the working environment is made in a way that it tends to favor men when compared to women (Kolhatkar, 2017). It is important to note that this male-oriented culture is not limited to only the tech sector but also science and engineering sectors. Most tech companies use masculine communication styles which may utilize words that may seem offensive to the female members of staff, long working hours which are not suitable for women and masculine group activities which may seem offensive to women. The nature of their responsibilities makes it difficult for women to have opportunities to have children due to time factors.
The tech field is a male-dominated field, and thus their majority tends to make events created specifically for the sector to cater for needs of men in a manner which may seem hostile to women such as the use of sexually-provocative women performers and production promotion which may seem offensive to the female gender. At these events, there is a high probability of sexual harassment for the women. The language used is usually offensive to women and may incorporate a sexist form of humor which is very appealing to the men but insulting to the women. Due to this sexism, women in the tech industry are leaving the industry at double the rate in which men are quitting (Burlacu, 2017).
Combating Gender Bias in Tech Companies
There is a need to combat gender discrimination in the tech industry in order to promote diversity and to offer female tech enthusiasts an opportunity to play a key role in creating our future. The first step includes reducing the gender discrepancies in the industry by hiring more women. A large number of women in the industry will create a conducive environment in which both genders can co-exist harmoniously with each other. However, this recruitment drive should also focus on retention of the available staff (Caprino, 2016). Recruitment of women without adequate retention will not be successful in a bid to increase the gender diversity of a labor force. To improve the retention, companies should develop proper channels that can be utilized to manage and engage employees to make sure that they are comfortable working for the organization.
Tech companies should incorporate proper human capital management structures. Current trends in management have made informal and conversational methods of employee evaluation and promotion popular (Burlacu, 2017). However, these methods are not appropriate for firms in the tech industry where gender discrimination is rife. In order to promote accountability in promotions, there is a need to conduct formal performance appraisal for employees especially in this male-dominated field. This will ensure that people who perform well in their roles will have very high chances of promotions as the promotions are based on merit.
Training can play a vital role in overcoming the gender bias in the tech industry. Training tends to cover the unconscious bias of employees in the tech industry and the impact it has in decision-making. Burlacu (2017) argues that training alone is not sufficient to create awareness and it has to be accompanied by providing the decision makers in the tech industry with key tools that can drive them into making less biased decisions for their workforce. Providing these decision-makers with appropriate data on bias or creating blind reviews where employees or job candidates are assessed solely based on their qualifications can play a key role in combating discrimination in an organization.
It is also important for tech companies to alter their culture to ensure that it is tolerant of employees from both genders. A culture change involves a change in employees' behavior such that it is inclusive to all employees as well as the corporate culture to ensure that a firm provides an optimum environment for employees from all backgrounds to thrive. Employees' mannerism and language should not be offensive to women, and all corporate events should consider the taste and preferences of all genders. Furlong (2017) explains that organizations culture is created by the senior management. The management should create flexible schedules where all employees can get involved to ensure that their employees can be involved in social activities such as leaving the office early in order to watch their children's game without fear of losing their job.
Tech firms ought to develop adequate ways to report and investigate cases of sexual harassment against women. This involves the use of professional female stuff in upper management levels in which women who feel harassed can confide with. This will make female employees comfortable in their workplace, and it will also boost their productivity. Dealing with the harassment of female members of staff in tech companies will play a vital role in eradicating the mass exodus of women from the industry.
In conclusion, it is clear from the media representation of gender bias issues that the tech industry is a male-dominated sector of the economy. The small number of women working in the sector is discriminated against in terms of wages and promotion, and this is resulting in an increase in the number of women exiting the industry. In a world where there is a huge shortage of skills, an industry that is discouraging the contribution from one gender is treading on dangerous waters. It is important for governments and the organizations in the tech industry to put enough mitigation factors to ensure that women who are skilled are availed an opportunity to contribute in a widely innovating field. Organizations need to hire more women, retain them and ensure that they can work in a safe and productive environment where they are rewarded based on merit rather than gender. This will provide women with an opportunity to influence the future of the world through innovation.
Burlacu, G. (2017). How to address gender bias in the technology industry | ICAEW Economia. Economia.icaew.com. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from http://economia.icaew.com/en/opinion/june-2017/how-to-address-gender-bias-in-the-technology-industry
Caprino, C. (2016). Forbes welcome. Forbes.com. Retrieved 21 November 2017, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2016/04/11/tackling-gender-bias-in-tech-and-beyond-evolving-towards-equality/#3faac7224ccd
Charleston, L. (2017). Ways the tech industry in Australia is trying to attract and retain females. Huffington Post Australia. Retrieved 19 November 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/03/31/ways-the-tech-industry-in-australia-is-trying-to-attract-and-ret_a_22019419/
Furlong, J. (2017). How to overcome gender bias in tech. tom's it pro. Retrieved 20 November 2017, from http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/overcome-gender-bias-technology,1-3442.html
Kolhatkar, S. (2017). The tech industrys gender-discrimination problem. The New Yorker. Retrieved 19 November 2017, from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/20/the-tech-industrys-gender-discrimination-problem
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