Women in tech: is the situation better in the US?

For STEM day, where we highlight the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, we asked Aurélie Giard-Jaquet, who hosts the TechLipstick podcast, to tell us about the place of women in technology , comparing the situation in France there. in the United States.

So, Aurélie: is the grass greener elsewhere?

“When I moved to New York in 2019, I decided to turn to the technology sector to pursue my career, both because of the taste in digital tools and for the opportunities offered. I started to be interested in the representation of women in tech and I naturally asked myself the question of the differences between Europe and the United States. Given the enormous demand of American tech companies, I thought I would find a situation more favorable to women than ‘ in Europe.

A shortage of women in Tech equivalents in the United States and Europe

On both sides of the Atlantic, the observation is the same: the representation of women is strong in health and life sciences professions, but is slightly decreasing or improving for digital professions.

For the United States, the Pew Research Center provides numbers in this article on the evolution of the share of women in STEM professions, illustrated by this graph:

The decline in the share of women in IT jobs and the severe shortage of engineering jobs is also similar in Europe. According to a European Commission study in 2018, women make up 21.5% of all digital jobs in Europe. In certain professions, women make up the lowest in the workforce: 11% in Cybersecurity (source: Karsperky Lab, cited by Telecom Paris), 9% in infrastructure and network professions or 17% in programming and development (source : INSEE 2017, cited by Digital Women)

While large technology companies (IBM, Salesforce, Google, etc.) improved the proportion of women in technical jobs by 2.6 points since 2019, Deloitte is more reserved for smaller companies that do not systematically set targets on diversity. More importantly, another Deloitte study notes a significant loss of motivation among women in the technology, media and telecom (TMT) sectors since the pandemic, suggesting a significant departure in the coming months.

Of course, technology companies offer other possibilities than technical professions. But the lack of women is also glaring on the side of entrepreneurs: according to the second European Start-up Monitor, only 14.8% of start-up founders are women and struggle to find investors.

Training isn’t the only culprit.

When we discuss the reasons why there aren’t enough women in tech jobs, training clearly comes first. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) provides numbers on the training of American women in CIS (Computing and Information Sciences). They represent only 21% of bachelors and 15% of doctoral students. In France, they are 27.2% for the promotion of engineers from 2017-2018 (source CNDJ). Even among those who graduated from an engineering school, they are more likely than men to choose tech to start their careers (see numbers provided by PwC here).

Other factors cited by studies

In particular explain that women do not stay in technological professions: cultural biases, self-censorship of women who do not consider themselves to be scientists enough, lack of balance in private life, sexism in the area of work, etc. I’m reading “Brotopia” which traces the history of tech culture in Silicon Valley and shows how women find themselves increasingly excluded from tech professions despite representing 40% of female programmers in 1984, especially which is due to selection processes.

After twenty in-depth interviews with women working in tech for my podcast TechLipstick, my observation is that thelack of female role models in technology. As Carole David rightly put it in our interview, it’s either people who have died a long time ago (Ada Lovelace) or people whose careers seem unattainable (Sheryl Sandberg). In fact, my guests don’t always have role models or mention men. I’m not sure that a girl identifies herself with Elon Musk or Steve Jobs to project herself into a future career. Even those who have already started it must identify the women to follow in their profession.

I think there is also a lack of knowledge of technological professions that can expand choices and promote other skills. Who was talking about the Community Manager job two or three years ago? How does a high school teacher or guidance counselor fit into opportunities such as UX designer or Product Manager? In addition, the orientation towards higher education is still based on the same paradigms as sixty years ago, such as the level of mathematics, while many other skills are implemented in technology professions.

The problem is complex and difficult to correct, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions to try.

Changing the way we look at tech jobs

With the portraits for my TechLipstick podcast, I have confirmation of thatthere is no need to have a scientific baccalaureate or be an engineer to work in technology. In this excerpt from her testimony, Valérie Quiniou, who has spent her entire career in IT, tells how she got started while working on a doctorate in language.

As Isabelle Andrès, director of technical, product and operations at Believe, explained to me, the royal road to tech jobs is to become an engineer. But with his business school diploma, his curiosity and the desire to understand led him to direct his career towards digital, then towards technology.

As for Gwenaëlle Gourevich, now Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of a video game studio, she is self-taught and trained on the job. (See his testimonial here).

I would like to mention three initiatives that I think are noteworthy to encourage women in technology:

  • In terms of the proportion of women in science training, some American universities have already exceeded 50%. This is the case of Harvey Mudd College, which had 55% of female programming graduates in 2016 (compared to 13% in 2009!) and is inspiring other universities such as Boston. To do this, he made three changes: revised the introductory course to show that prior programming skills were no longer necessary; increase research opportunities; and helping women attend the Grace Hopper Conference, the world’s largest conference for women in programming. Other initiatives are mentioned in this Forbes article dedicated to the topic.
  • Social Builder is a French association that works for the inclusion of women in the digital world and has supported more than 75,000 women. For example, it organizes free ‘digital bootcamps’ to enable female job seekers to learn about digital professions, offers digital support to female entrepreneurs or training for technical position with immediate opening. It is pragmatic and results oriented.
  • The organization 50inTech is often mentioned by my visitors. Founded by Frenchwoman Caroline Ramade, it supports women in their tech careers with job opportunities, mentoring, networking, career advice, and helps companies recruit the talent they need. It also encourages companies to publish a ‘gender score’ to highlight their actions in favor of diversity. The promise for candidates: join companies with a genuine desire for inclusion. The stated goal is ambitious: 50% of women in tech by 2050!

For me, these organizations are heading in the right direction, because they encourage by example and present opportunities, helping women overcome their fears and their limiting beliefs. Once the first step has been taken, it is important to create a welcoming and encouraging environment. I think companies have no choice: there is an estimated 1 million talent in digital professions in the United States, and the problem is global. So I am very optimistic, and I will continue to prove to women that it is fun to work in tech! “

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