What Can Men Do To Create More Opportunities for Women in Programming and Tech?

Written By Ryan Ayers

women in programmingJobs in the tech industry are in high demand. Businesses are taking advantage of big data analytics and other technologies to increase efficiency and profits. Even companies in other industries are hiring programmers and analysts so they can grow and become more successful.

Because of this high demand, salaries are high as well. Specialized training is needed for many roles, and computer science programs are growing in popularity as students discover the benefits of working in the tech industry. However, a major gender gap still persists in computer science research—a gap that may not be closed for a hundred years.

Women in computer science have faced an uphill battle for decades. Regardless of their ambition and talent, many women have been pushed aside in favor of their male colleagues. This glass ceiling persists to this day despite more awareness than ever before within the industry.

While some women have, against all odds, managed to carve out a place for themselves, they shouldn’t have to face additional challenges or be passed over for promotions simply because of their gender. Men need to play an active role in advocating for their female colleagues, helping them to push past challenges and find more opportunities in programming and tech.

Here’s how men in the tech industry can be good allies and create opportunities for women in programming.

Computer Science Programs and the Gender Gap

The biggest problem isn’t necessarily getting women interested in tech jobs—many are excited about programming and other tech-focused careers. Additionally, new STEM-focused school curriculums are beginning to get even more girls excited about computer science careers. Lack of interest is a relatively minor issue that’s getting better all the time as girls are encouraged to pursue their passions.

Keeping women in the industry, while they face daily sexism, is a larger hurdle. Many women face issues like not being taken seriously by their male colleagues, sexual harassment, and not getting the credit they deserve for their work. Over time, that kind of treatment wears most women down and can cause them to leave the industry, even if they love the technical aspects of their jobs.

When women are pushed out of the industry, it reinforces the toxic culture that perpetuates the problem and also increases the pay gap among men and women overall. Women are still seen as inferior to men within the industry, even though this is objectively untrue. But how bad is this problem, really, and what can be done about it?

Consequences of Inequality in Tech

Very few women hold leadership roles in the computer science industry, and the pay gap continues to be unacceptably wide. In IT as a whole, just 16% of senior-level roles and 10% of executive positions are held by women. This power imbalance has real consequences and prevents meaningful change.

Leadership opportunities matter. Although only about 18% of computer science graduates are women nationwide, at least one woman-led university, Harvey Mudd, has achieved a rate of 50% in computer science, physics, and engineering, showing that female leadership can be a powerful driver of change.

Data science is a booming sector, as more and more organizations leverage their data to improve business success. Unfortunately, very few women have been given the opportunity to succeed in the field. With just 20% of data scientist roles being held by women, it’s clear that there’s a huge gender gap within the data science community. Very few women hold leadership roles in the field, and the pay gap continues to be very wide.

Equality aside, this lack of diversity could have other consequences. Although data itself is totally objective and factual, the interpretation of it is definitely not. Having only white men ask questions and analyze data will not allow for much innovation and could actually make disparities worse, as algorithms often have scientists’ own biases written into them.

What Men Need To Learn About the Gender Gap

Many women are brilliant coders—in fact, the world’s first programmer was none other than Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron. There is no factual basis for preventing women from thriving in computer science, and excuses are wearing thin.

For men in the tech industry, the easiest thing to do is to turn away from the truth. It’s easy to believe that as long as you’re not directly harassing or discouraging your female colleagues, you’re “one of the good guys.” But unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

Men need to start being proactive and research the gender gap. They need to take an active, not passive, role in changing the narrative around women in tech. Learning more about the gender gap and seeking out content written by women in the industry can give men the tools they need to:

  • Speak up when appropriate.
  • Advocate for organizational policy change.
  • Understand what their female colleagues are going through.
  • Learn strategies to help women thrive in the tech world.

It’s long past time to address the gender gap. The “broken rung” in the industry prevents most women from getting hired, making it all the more crucial to create more opportunities. Men in the industry can’t just go about their business and continue to ignore the challenges women in computer science face.

How Men Can Help Improve Gender Diversity in the Tech Industry and Computer Science Programs

women in programmingThe good news is that there are lots of ways for men to help break down barriers and create more opportunities for women in tech, especially those in leadership positions. This is a multifaceted issue that will require concentrated effort over time.

Men should start by examining their own biases. Many people don’t realize that they have long-held, false beliefs and stereotypes that may be causing them to underestimate their female colleagues or not take them seriously. Checking one’s own biases is an ongoing process that will be crucial for reducing inequality.

In the tech industry, men can also help by mentoring, advocating for colleagues’ ideas, and addressing toxic cultural workplace issues that may be affecting turnover among female employees. Often, men just don’t notice these issues occurring, as they don’t affect their work or lives directly, and they aren’t looking for them.

Active listening is a good place to start. In meetings, men can help by listening to female colleagues’ ideas and helping to boost them instead of advancing their own agenda at every opportunity. Additionally, being open and available to provide help and answer questions is a good gateway to mentorship that can help women who are new to the industry. For example, when welcoming a new female colleague, you should let her know you’d be glad to answer any questions or clarify something if she needed help, but don’t invade her workspace to show her “how it’s done.”

Men also need to be willing to speak out against problematic behaviors and policies in the workplace. If men can start to evaluate different situations for potential challenges affecting women at work, they will soon start to see countless ways to create more opportunities and change the face of the tech industry—for good.

It Is Our Responsibility To Find Ways To Be Allies

Women do not have the responsibility of changing the industry. They have been fighting for equal treatment within tech for decades and have contributed substantially to the field. Now, men need to step up and admit that they have been part of the problem.

This is not a moment for shame, but for humility. If men put their egos aside and find ways to be allies, we will reach true equality in tech much more quickly. Women deserve more than just a place at the table—they deserve to sit as equals and be recognized for their incredible work within the industry.