The year 2015 may go down as the year of equality. Already, we have the historic SCOTUS ruling supporting gay marriage, the transgender equality movement and an evolving narrative surrounding police brutality; a searing reminder of racism’s role in the land of the free. We’re revisiting old wounds, letting others fade to scars and bravely slashing new ones in the hopes of a better tomorrow. And we’re only halfway through.
Yet, out in California, a progressive state in many areas, equality is not progressing.
In fact, Silicon Valley is turning the clock back 60 years when it comes to women in the workplace.
A Boy’s Club
For the few women who do work in the technology industry, life in Silicon Valley shows the road to equality remains a long one. From sexual harassment suits, accusations of gender discrimination and wage inequality, Facebook, Twitter and Tinder have all been under fire. It seems that not even the most successful tech companies have managed to solve the age-old problem sitting right in front of them.
Take Google. The tech giant’s 2015 diversity analysis had very little diversity to actually report; the results were what you’d expect from a 1960s ad agency, not one of the most progressive tech companies in America. A staggering 70 percent of Google’s global workforce is male. On U.S. soil, 61 percent of their staff is white, 30 percent is Asian, 3 percent is black and 2 percent is Hispanic. Google launched a $50 million initiative to encourage and train female programmers in response to the report, but has yet to address the lack of racial diversity.
Apple, Amazon, Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Facebook share a similar office culture. The dominance of white and Asian males in tech validates a geeky stereotype, but does nothing to create a more balanced work environment. In fact, women’s share of jobs in software and tech fell from 34 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2011.
An Indicative Wage Gap
On the issue of pay equality, Silicon Valley may stand out, but it is not alone.
From the Women’s World Cup tournament to female-dominated industries like education, nursing and human resources, men continue to out earn women. These statistics alone perpetuate a subtle philosophy of sexism rooted in outdated cultural norms.
The facts are this. Nationally, across the United States, women are paid 78 cents to every dollar a man makes. This is despite the fact that women – more than 150 million of them – make up just under 51 percent of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Still, despite being the majority, women continue to earn 22 percent less than the minority population of men.
A Culture of Exclusion
Understand, as with any social issue, there are a lot of variables at play.
In Silicon Valley, some contend that the imbalance is simply due to a lack of supply. Fewer and fewer women are choosing to go into well-paying tech and computer sciences, with just 18 percent of female undergraduate students earning a degree in computer and information sciences in 2010; a 19 percent decrease since 1985.
But the lack of female representation in tech is first and foremost a cultural problem. An industry so heavily saturated with one sex over the other is bound to create a “club” of some persuasion. This will undoubtedly result in favoritism or gender discrimination, intentional or not.
Looking in the Mirror
That being said, this doesn’t make claims of discrimination or harassment any less real or damaging. Instead of relying on obsolete cultural stereotypes to justify or explain discriminatory behavior, we should be challenging the norms plaguing our nation’s most inventive industries.
And quite frankly, we expect more from them. The same innovators leading America’s tech revolution are also accepting gender roles contrived when T.V. programming was in black and white and homosexuality was considered a sin. How innovative is that, really?
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