How much progress has been made towards gender equality in the workplace?
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How close are we to workplace gender equality?

8 Mar 2018

What is the road to gender equality paved with, and are we even moving in the right direction?

Gender equality (and sometimes inequality), particularly in a workplace context, is something we report on frequently on

We write about women in STEM experiencing workplace discrimination, gender pay gaps becoming illegal, plans to eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace and how HR professionals now consider diversity a top priority.

The research that is released, the panels that are conducted and the legislation brought into effect all paint a picture of the peaks and troughs of progress.

On one hand, we hear frequent reports of gender disparity in leading tech firms, lack of female representation, and incidences of sexual harassment and discrimination against women.

On the other hand, emerging trends seem to indicate that people are making concerted efforts to address these problems as they arise and make the workplace a safer, better, more inclusive and more equal place for women. So, what does the latest research indicate about the gender equality movement?

More women are learning to code

HackerRank’s 2018 edition of its Women in Tech report paints a complex picture of how women in the tech industry are faring today.

It surveyed more than 14,000 professional software developers, of which 2,000 were women, and concluded optimistically that the gender gap for when developers learn to code is shrinking, albeit slowly.

The survey noted that it used to be the case that women would career pivot into computer science from other disciplines, while men were much more likely to study computer science outright. Women today are 33pc more likely to study computer science compared with women in 1983.

It also used to be that men were much more likely to take up coding before the age of 16 – that gap has shrunk from 20pc in the 1980s to just a 7pc point gap today.

It’s difficult to say what has contributed to this gap closing, since the survey doesn’t provide qualitative data, but it’s likely that STEM education programmes geared towards young women are doing a lot to encourage participation in STEM fields in adulthood.

Women of all ages are in junior positions

The survey also revealed that women say they are proficient in some of the most in-demand front-end and back-end programming languages such as Java, JavaScript,  C++,  Python, Ruby and PHP. The most popular industries for these women to work in were listed as tech (53pc), finance (11pc) and education (5pc).

The thing that gives pause about this research is the fact that, despite age and despite being equipped with the necessary knowledge, women are far more likely to be in junior positions.

From ages 18 to 24, it starts out roughly the same: around 80pc of both men and women report being in junior positions, with women slightly more likely to be so.

The disparity appears when you look at the 25-34 age bracket, in which men are almost twice as likely to be in senior positions as women. For the over-35s, women are 3.5 times more likely to be in a junior position than men.

It’s hard to determine how much of this is attributable to women being passed over for promotions and how much can be chalked up to the fact that women were less likely to pursue coding from a young age in years gone by, but it’s still a glaring issue that should concern anyone who wants to see gender parity in STEM.

Tech diversity and salaries

According to new figures released by Paysa, female representation is still lagging behind in most industries. The most glaring disparity in leadership figures can be observed in machinery, military, aerospace and automobile industries – in all these areas, fewer than 15pc of leaders are women.

The pharmaceutical industry has the highest proportion of female leaders but still fails to achieve parity – just under 35pc of leaders in pharma are women. In the food and beverage industry, women account for 32pc of leadership, with 30pc for leadership in the insurance industry.

Paysa also considered the pay disparity in major regions in the US such as Seattle, Bay Area, Los Angeles, Boston and New York City, and found that men in tech and leadership positions always earned more than women.

The largest pay gap was observed in the Bay Area, arguably the global capital of the tech industry, where female professionals take home nearly 20pc less than their male counterparts.

Unsurprisingly, tech giants such as Netflix, Uber and Facebook emerged as the companies where women command the highest salaries. However, worryingly, these are companies that also have some of the smallest proportions of women on their staff.

Though women in Uber can expect to be paid almost $270,000 a year, only 14pc of Uber’s staff are women, the lowest reported figure out of 15 companies examined. This statistic is damning, especially considering the revelations in 2017 about sexual harassment first highlighted by Susan Fowler that eventually led to 20 of Uber’s staff being fired. The connection between male-dominated environments and women experiencing discrimination and harassment is well documented.

What can be gleaned?

Evidently, the work done to encourage women towards STEM has paid off and evidently, the potential for women to be interested in and excel in STEM fields is there, so the tech industry will soon have to relinquish its right to argue that a lack of women in the ‘pipeline’ is to blame for lack of diversity in leadership and in tech firms.

Women are clearly participating in greater numbers than ever before in the tech industry, and yet they aren’t being compensated fairly and aren’t necessarily being chosen to lead. So really, what more can women do to advance their own equality movement?

At a certain point, the burden has to be lifted from women to elevate themselves and has to be put instead on the shoulders of the people currently in a position to make decisions about hiring, promotions and compensation.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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