On Women in Tech

We're just not that good... at communicating.

As a web developer, I’ve never had a single female developer coworker. Sure, I’ve had lady bosses, designers, marketers, and project managers - but I rarely see, muchless have the pleasure to work alongside, women. Why?!

Men have dominated the tech industry for years, and it’s not because we’re better at the job, so what is it? Why aren’t there as many women in tech?

The answer isn’t as simple as “companies give unfair advantages to men”. That cop out is too easy, and just shifts the blame. Sure, there are a few problem companies, but the simple fact is that fewer women are trying to get into tech. So far, men have won by sheer volume - there are simply more men going after tech jobs.

As it turns out, we’re pretty great at convincing our [male] friends to join the industry.

So the problem is a bit deeper than bias within companies. If we want to find out how we got here, let us first take a look at where we’ve been.

Boys Will Be Boys

The problems started well before anyone got hired at any company. Boys develop social skills a bit later than girls do in general, but this is especially true when it comes to nerdy boys. Especially through the teen years, nerds could be some of the most awkward, unapproachable people in school (me included).

Many times, we were slow to make friends and lacked a basic understanding of what drives social interaction. The clics in high school felt almost rock solid, which made mobility between social groups difficult as well. Nerds didn’t always know how to approach people - others noticed this, and it made them less inclined to approach us. It’s a vicious cycle.

Many of us developed pretty negative outlooks on our peers as a result.

Is it any surprise, then, that girls weren’t around as often to share our interest in all things tech?

That’s the age when we actually have the time to learn about things — when we cultivate our inner nerd and set goals for our future. If girls don’t feel comfortable in our social groups at that time in their lives, they’d miss out on at least part of that experience.

This is something I’m happy to see taking a turn for the better. Social groups tend to include nerds more freely now, and (I can only hope) that extends to schools as well.

But we can still help it along by making sure our own children are taught how to interact with people in healthy ways. Most kids learn these skills from watching their parents interact - so include your kids in conversations when possible, joke with them, and make sure they socialize with those around them as well. Make sure they don’t drive others away, and they’ll be generally happier in the long run - and maybe more girls will get nerdy.

Lets use the knowledge of our own weaknesses be a teaching tool — that they may avoid sharing those weaknesses. Just my two cents. :)

Posted on August 17, 2014 in Industry by James Pederson

On Women in Tech | jpederson.com