Women in Tech: pipeline versus retention
There’s a provocative article over at Medium.com about women in tech. As the article points out in about a thousand ways, it’s not just a pipeline problem, it’s an environmental problem.
Fellow math nerd Rachel Thomas, the author, points out a bunch of sad facts about working in tech. For example, how VC’s prefer men, how men’s applications are preferred in hiring processes, how women get punished for negotiating and for being pushy whereas men get rewarded.
Having worked in tech myself, I can say the maternity policies are crap, the long hours are unreasonable, and the frat-like atmosphere exhausts me. No, I do not want to play ping pong during my lunch hour.
But having said that, I don’t think I’ve experienced the worst of it; I was already a grownup, with a Ph.D., when I entered this stuff, and as such I’m allowed to have stronger opinions than the average engineer.
The most interesting issue brought up in Rachel’s piece is the retention rates for those qualified for tech jobs. Unfortunately, both Rachel’s piece and this related NPR piece which Rachel points to only discuss the statistics for women retention, namely that about 40% of women leave engineering after they get degrees in engineering (and I think Rachel’s piece actually gets that stat wrong).
Presumably, that’s higher than men, but how much higher? And do women leave jobs more often in general, or is this a tech-related retention problem? What’s the breakdown on reasons why women and men leave? Can we address them individually?
These are important questions, and if we can figure out what is happening, we should. I’ve been thinking about how to grow the pipeline for girls and women in STEM subjects at the high school and college level, but it would be ridiculous to spend an enormous amount of time on that if, once the get a job, that job proves unattractive.
Update: In the subtitle of the piece, it says 17% of men end up leaving the field compared to 42% of women, with a link to this 100 page pdf (hat tip Ewout ter Haar). I still want to know how many women leave other fields to give more context, but it’s a good start.