#01: Women in Tech: Striving for Diversity

Women in business often find themselves in rooms full of men. In the tech industry, the likelihood of being the only woman in the room quadruples. With such a lucrative industry and a booming market, why are women so underrepresented? Randi Zuckerberg shares her insights on the topic.

Randi Zuckerberg is the former Director of Market Development for Facebook, and founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media. We chatted with her to discuss not only women in tech, but what it means to have the 'entrepreneurship gene' and more.

How far have we come?

While it seems that women in tech are slowly closing the gender gap, it may not be happening as quickly as we think. Statistically, women simply make up less of the industry. According to TheMuse.com, only 28 percent of software jobs, and 25 percent of IT jobs are held by women. Even more shockingly, women hold only 11 percent of executive positions in Silicon Valley, and own only 5 percent of startups.

While organizations like Girls Who Code and Astia encourage women to become tech gurus and entrepreneurial pros, the number of women entering the field is on the decline. In 2008, women accounted for 18 percent of the computer science degrees in the United States - a steep drop from 1984, when women represented 37.1 percent of all computer science degrees. 

What is holding women back?

Many believe the lack of women pining to get into tech focused careers may stem from institutional problems. Historically, the wage gap in the industry is tremendous, and the benefits offered are simply not compatible with family planning. When asked if companies spend enough time addressing the issue of gender diversity, 40% of women answered no, while 82% of men answered yes. These answers may illustrate why it’s an uphill battle for women who want a career in any branch of technology. Between the wage gap, benefits and lack of diversity, this male-dominated industry can seem like a daunting place to be.

Building a culture where diverse candidates feel they can fulfill their potential is not always an easy task, but a necessary one. Zuckerberg tells us that in order for a company to find success in diversity initiatives, programs must come from the top of the organization and be treated as a priority. “It cannot be just a nice-to-have thing you have on one press release. It can’t come from bottom up in the company, where you are trying to convince leaders this is important,” she explains. 

Companies should seek diversity

Businesses see the most success when hiring diverse candidates, and women in tech today are proving that. Companies with female leaders have proven to be three times more successful than those with male CEOs. According to Forbes, women are leading the industry in India, with women holding 35 percent of IT jobs. The US and UK are following behind with women holding 20 percent and 18 percent of IT jobs respectively.

The achievements of female leaders in tech speak for themselves. Elizabeth "Jake" Feinler pioneered and managed first the ARPNET and the Defense Data Network (DDN) - both of these early networks were the forerunners of today’s Internet. Roz Ho is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Consumer and Metadata teams at TiVo - she helped Microsoft develop the original PowerPoint program. Rhonda Childress is a Vice President at IBM, she became the first IBM female Master Inventor.

Ultimately, women are making huge strides in tech industry, and show no signs of slowing down. Learn more by listening to our podcast, Future Forecast, where  Randi Zuckerberg shares her experiences as a women in tech, corporate diversity and more - Listen now!