Closing the gender gap in tech – it's time to act
Twenty-first century life is full of reminders that technology companies wield outsized influence over our futures. And because the decisions they make affect all of us, it’s crucial that the people making these decisions represent all of us, too. As technology’s role in society grows, so does the urgency of diversifying the tech sector.
Black, Latina, and Native American women make up roughly 16% of the population, but graduate with only 4% of computing degrees.
Unsurprisingly, the gender gap in computing degrees translates to a gender gap in the tech workforce. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), in 2017, women held only 26 percent of jobs in the computing workforce. The data on women of color is less robust—in part because companies don’t always report it—but they are, without question, the most underrepresented group in tech. In 2017, black women held only 3 percent of computing jobs, and Latinas just 1 percent.
These facts carry troubling implications not only for the individual ambitions of aspiring technologists but for the collective potential of the sector. A growing body of evidence suggests that diverse teams are more creative, more productive, and more profitable than teams whose members all look and think alike.
Already, tech companies spend billions of dollars every year on philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. I wanted to understand how much of that spending is going toward gender diversity—and whether the tech companies who say they want to be part of the solution can do more to put their money where their mouth is.
To answer these questions, my company, Pivotal Ventures, partnered with McKinsey & Company to learn more about how tech companies approach their philanthropic and social responsibility initiatives. Over the course of our research, we engaged with 32 leading technology companies and 100 of the industry’s top executives and experts. Ours isn’t the first report to explore tech’s diversity problem, but it is the first to enlist tech companies themselves to design a solution.
We also found that, although the companies expressed a strong desire to increase the number of black, Latina, and Native American women and girls in their ranks, less than .1 percent of their 2017 philanthropic giving focused on women of color specifically. In other words, there is clear opportunity for diversity-minded companies to use their existing spending more effectively.
Already, these companies are putting our findings into action. Today, twelve companies will announce the launch of the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, a joint effort to close the gender gap for women of color in tech that aims to double the number of black, Latina, and Native American women graduating with computing degrees by 2025.
I love imagining these young women and the futures ahead of them. They may or may not be thinking about careers in tech yet. But it matters that tech is thinking about them.