Listen up all young women who think feminism went out with the dinosaurs. Discrimination against females in the workplace is alive and well. So says Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In. Never mind that Ellen Pao, former partner with venture capitalist firm, Kleiner , Perkins, Caulfied and Byers lost her discrimination case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (“How To Hack Sexism,” by Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones, July/August, 2015 pgs 29, 58.) One reason she couldn’t prove her complaint against Silicon Valley was because so few statistics on workplace discrimination existed a the time. In 2013, large Tech companies fought the Department of Labor when it sought data on hiring diversity, arguing the information was a trade secret. (Ibid pg 29)
Tracy Chou, an engineer with Pinterest, didn’t buy their argument and appealed directly to the web for information. Word spread and within a few weeks, she had a repository of data to make the Library of Congress envious. She discovered that while Tech employment had grown 37% since 2003, the percentage of women in the industry had fallen below its traditional 13%. Worse, as of 2011, women in technical fields, on average, made $16,000 less than men. (Ibid pg. 29)
A person could argue Chou’s sample was unscientific but when some of the big companies were shamed into revealing their numbers, Chou’s data wasn’t far off. At Google, women represent 17% of the workforce. At Yelp the ratio is 8%. At Dropbox, it’s 9%. Eventually, Twitter, and Facebook turned in numbers, too. They show female representation at between 10 to 20%. (Ibid pg. 29)
All this imbalance in the industry makes me wonder how technology would work if the ratio were reversed. I’m guessing there’d be fewer gismos, lights and wires in the designs, the kind of complexity that causes grown men to gravitate to any car with its hood up. If women were in the majority, I suspect, they’d simplify systems rather than go flashy. Being multitaskers, they’d know machines that whirr, buzz and breakdown aren’t compatible with breastfeeding babies.