Why Aren’t Women in Tech? Job Discrimination

Study shows that employers' tendencies to hire men for STEM jobs could be contributing to shrinking female candidate pool.

Candice Helfand-Rogers By Candice Helfand-Rogers

Credit: publicdomainpictures.net

Credit: publicdomainpictures.net

We at The Story Exchange have been looking more and more into some of the reasons behind the lack of representation for women in the technology sector – an issue that is especially pervasive among entrepreneurs in the tech world.

During our search, we found this study, in which researchers connect negative biases against women in STEM fields and their reluctance to pursue careers in those areas.

“Women outnumber men in undergraduate enrollments, but they are much less likely than men to major in mathematics or science or to choose a profession in these fields,” they said. “This outcome often is attributed to the effects of negative sex-based stereotypes.”

The study also revealed that both male and female employers are significantly more likely to hire a man for a math-based opportunity – which some would say is a validation of those concerns.

“We find that without any information other than a candidate’s appearance (which makes sex clear), both male and female subjects are twice more likely to hire a man than a woman,” researchers wrote. “The discrimination survives if performance on the arithmetic task is self-reported, because men tend to boast about their performance, whereas women generally underreport it.”

They added: “The discrimination is reduced, but not eliminated, by providing full information about previous performance on the task.”

It’s a frustrating reminder that age-old stereotypes against women are not only alive and well, but are continuing to directly affect the lives of working and entrepreneurial women throughout the nation.

But while the study (whose findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) is indicative of a continuing bias, there are many organizations, programs and initiatives that are geared toward encouraging women to follow their dreams – even if those dreams lead them into traditionally male-dominated fields.

For example, Google recently awarded funding and program assistance to 40 initiatives in the United States and abroad that hope to embolden female entrepreneurs.

Related: Groups Promoting Female Entrepreneurs Get a Boost

And in addition to those recognized by that effort, there are many more organizations working toward the same purpose day in and day out. Their methodologies range from written works (such as those found in the online magazine Brainy Girls) and course offerings (for example, from the Center for STEM Education for Girls) to the production and dissemination of inspirational materials (like those produced by Women @ NASA).

From those who spearhead such initiatives, the message is clear – they are tired of the lack of representation, and want to encourage girls and women of all ages to learn more about the STEM world. We couldn’t agree more, and we’re hopeful that their efforts – as well as a growing awareness of what might be keeping women away in the first place – will help the cause.

Related: Experts Talk, Encourage in #STEMforHer Twitter Chat
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Female Business Owners Express Optimism – and Some Concerns – Regarding 2014 Outlook

Posted: April 2, 2014

Candice Helfand-RogersWhy Aren’t Women in Tech? Job Discrimination