Tech companies are finding it hard to retain female talent

By Nicole Miskelly | 25 February 2015

The LA Times reports that tech companies are find it increasingly hard to retain female talent.

Two women interviewed by the LA Times said they left their tech positions after over ten years of service and not reaching management level.“Ana Redmond launched into a technology career for an exciting challenge and a chance to change the world. In 2011, after 15 years, she left before achieving a management position. Garann Means became a programmer for similar reason. After 13 years, she quit too, citing a hostile and unwelcoming environment for women,” wrote the LA Times.

According to Code.org, computing jobs are expected to reach 1.4 million by 2020, which is double the figure now. The tech industry is eager to hire women and minorities considering the low amount being represented, however the LA Times reports that women in tech say the pipeline of talent will not improve if women continue to quit.  “The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it’s a valuable investment,” said Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation.

The LA Times reports  that a Harvard Business Review Study from 2008 found as many as 50 per cent of women working in engineering, science and technology will leave over time due to hostile work environments, which include “hostile” male culture, lack of a clear career path and a sense of isolation.

Many of the women interviewed by the LA Times said they were subtly pushed out by their male co-workers and were bypassed for senior positions. Tracy Chou, engineer at Pinterest said she was once bypassed at a previous start-up without explanation because her boss had a feeling a new male hire would get work done faster.

Wayne Sutton, partner at Build-up, a start-up that seeks out companies founded by minorities and women told the LA Times that he often witnesses women being treated unfairly and watched a women get told by a venture capitalist that she should get a job instead of starting her own company because she wasn’t going to make it in that industry.

Google currently has an engineering workforce that is 17 per cent women, Pinterest’s technical team is made up of 21 percent women, Facebook’s is 15 per cent and Apple’s global engineering workforce is 20 per cent women.

According to Scarlett Sieber, vice president of operations at tech company Infomous, having a female CEO does not solve this problem either, because although some companies are headed by women the majority are headed by men. “Men need to be the ones that are advocating and pushing for women to rise up, and not rely on the one per cent of women who are already at the top to do it,” said Sieber.

Joan C. Williams, law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law told the LA Times that sensitivity training and mentoring won’t be enough to increase numbers, companies need to research the biases that prevent women from getting ahead and then devise interrupters. William also believes companies need to make systemic changes rather than just offering single training sessions.

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