At Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference event hosted by Apple, techies weren't just discussing the new iOS 7 features, but also the length of the men's bathroom lines and the lack of women. Given the discussions the lines have sparked, people within the tech industry are clearly aware of the gender gap within their line of work, but what can be done to address it?
Dan Ackerman of CNET tweeted this photo on Monday during the conference. He stated that the lengthy men's bathroom line summed up the conference, and Hunter Walk of Google tweeted back saying it not only explains the conference in one photo, but is reflective of the tech industry as a whole.
Women make up roughly 50% of the general workforce, and it is widely known they are graduating from college at higher rates than men. But when it comes to the tech sector, they only make up 29% of the jobs. In 2010 only 17% of computer science majors were female, which decreased from 28% in 2000. While participation in the field is lacking, there are attempts being made to address the gap.
Companies such as Twitter, Google, and Intel are investing resources into programs such as Girls Who Code, which attempts to bridge the gender gap by teaching high school girls about coding. Schools have begun tailoring their curriculum to address the growing need to attract girls to the field. The president of Harvey Mudd college has made computer science a graduation requirement. Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan requires a year-long introductory computer science course for all students, and as a result, it has seen higher enrollment in the higher-level AP computer science course and has sent many alumni out into the tech world. Due to the lag between enrollment and college graduation, we won't see big results from these programs for a few years.
Google made a change in its interviewing process when the company realized not many women made it past the first round of phone interviews. They now have women interview other women as a less intimidating way of screening candidates. But a friendly face and increased exposure to the industry isn't the entirety of the large movement we need to see.
The tech sector is predicted to grow faster than any other field, and women must feel encouraged to take the track. One way is through strong female leadership and mentorship. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, has become the poster figure advocating for women to "lean in" and fully participate, stand up for their ability, and seek a mentor, but her message is not tech-specific. On the contrary, Marissa Mayer, Yahoo's CEO, doesn't advocate for much at all. She axed Yahoo's work-from-home program, claimswomen should act more like men, and only took a two-week maternity leave. She doesn't encourage women to seek out tech careers, but is the type of figure the movement needs.
While we wait for a female advocate to emerge, and wait for students to graduate, we need some other cultural aspect to change, because talking and joking about the astronomically long bathroom lines will not address the gender disparity.