Exploring female underrepresentation in tech, engineering and leadership

A recent report revealed that seven in 10 Google employees are male, while women compose just 21 percent of the tech titan’s leadership. Women make up 48 percent of non-tech positions within the company, but the gender discrepancy becomes much more acute among engineering, tech and management roles, according to CNN. In fact, only one of Google’s top 12 executives is female – Susan Wojcicki, chief of YouTube.

What’s more, this issue isn’t unique to Google. Citing government diversity reports obtained in 2013, the news source noted that major tech companies CISCO, Dell, eBay, Ingram Micro and Intel have all struggled to attract women. Fewer than one-third (32 percent) of Dell employees are female, while Cisco and Intel fare even more poorly, with women composing just one-quarter of their workforces.

Pew Research indicates that women outnumber men in terms of social media engagement and Internet use, which establishes a worrying disconnect.

“Most Internet companies’ customers are women, but the engineers, designers, coders and executives making the products are predominantly men,” pointed out CNN’s David Goldman.

Canadian firms not faring any better

As we noted in a previous article, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada data indicates 22 percent of Canadians employed in STEM fields are female. Statistics Canada’s latest National Household Survey revealed that just 39 percent of STEM graduates between the ages of 25 to 34 were women.

So, why are women so underrepresented? Are there qualified female candidates out there who are being overlooked by IT recruitment and engineering staffing professionals or are they simply nonexistent?

There’s no single reason for the situation. Rather, the cause is a mix of barriers set by the current status quo in the world of professional tech (a male-dominated field, gender discrimination within hiring, etc.) as well as social norms that steer women away from STEM at a young age.

Gender disparity among executives

But what of women in the C-suite? Earlier this year, Strategy& released its 14th annual Chief Executive Study, which analyzed the incoming class of CEOs in 2013 and found that companies tend to onboard female CEOs from the outside.

“That women CEOs are more often outsiders may be an indication that companies have not been able to cultivate enough female executives in-house, so when boards look for new CEOs, they necessarily find a larger pool of female candidates outside their own organizations,” noted Gary Neilson, senior partner at Strategy&, in a statement.

According to the survey, the tide may be changing in favor of eventual gender parity, as the proportion of incoming women outpaced the percentage of those in the outgoing class in eight out of the past 10 years. In fact, by 2040, women are forecast to compose about one-third of new CEO appointments.

What’s ahead for the tech and engineering fields?

The future may seem less rosy for women in tech and engineering than leadership, but companies like Google are taking positive steps to redress the gender imbalance that exists within their workforces.

CNN reported that Google’s Women in Engineering Network and Women@Google programs offer its female employees access to networking and professional development resources. Microsoft has taken a different approach by cultivating an interest in STEM fields at an earlier stage in women’s lives. Its DigiGirlz summer camp, which is held at locations throughout the United States as well as abroad, allows attendees to “listen to executive speakers, participate in technology tours and demonstrations, network, and learn through hands-on experience in workshops,” according to the Microsoft website.

The fact that women are underrepresented within the tech, engineering and leadership field is undeniable, but the important thing is that efforts are being made to address this disparity.