Culture Shock: A Battle of the Sexes in Software Development
It's one of the top ten highest paying jobs for women. It has a top five ranking in job satisfaction. So why are there so few women in software development? The answer quickly becomes evident. From a female viewpoint, the workplace culture for software developers is often regarded as less than desirable. Much less desirable.
At one time, salary and benefits alone were enough to make a job tolerable but today's workers are no longer looking for tolerable. So many companies attempt to make the office environment fun, rewarding, and creativity inspiring that job applicants have come to expect it, especially when the demand is as high as it is in software development.
Today, developers often have their pick of which company offers the best pay and which workplace lifestyle meets their needs. For many women, who already face challenges finding pay equal to that of their male coworkers, they were left out of the equation when the culture of a company was designed.
Although many of the more questionable or even appalling gaffes regarding male-centric company cultures have been made at the startup level—and not inside larger corporate entities—it’s the startups that are often regarded as the “fun” places to work. These questionable practices have resulted in potential female applicants feeling discouraged and even intimidated.
CNET’s Ben Parr nails the problem when he states, “Male-dominated teams lack female viewpoints, which can contribute to the objectification of women.” The problem is not solely that men are making poor decisions; it’s that, in many cases, there isn’t a woman in sight to even offer alternative ideas.
As the percentage of women in software development continues to slide downward, the odds are that this problem will spread to more companies and thus become even harder to solve. But just as some startups have been the problem, others are aiming to be the solution.
Girl Develop It
This international nonprofit group aims to eliminate “digital illiteracy among all women.” Girls Develop It offers everything from classes and educational materials to information on events like hackathons where men and women can network and collaborate on the latest in coding and hacking trends.
Girls Who Code
Girls Who Code works directly with thirteen- to seventeen-year-old girls to give them “the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in technology and engineering.”
The need for greater female representation in the technology industry is not just being addressed at the startup level. Groups like the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) work worldwide with some of the largest investment partners to “correct the imbalance of gender diversity” in this area.
While groups like Girl Develop IT and the NCWIT are doing their parts to get women the skills needed to level the playing field, it’s up to those doing the hiring to remove the "good old boys’ club" mentality and truly open the doors to everyone.