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  • Diversity in Tech: Not all Doom and Gloom

    Article by Workbridge Silicon Valley

    Diversity in tech is a topic that has become increasingly prevalent in the media. Many prominent figures in the industry are participating in open conversations on the once unspoken fact that the industry is saturated with white males while other demographics are underrepresented.

    A variety of different factors can be credited with bringing the diversity issue in tech into the limelight. One such factor was the #Gamergate controversy that occurred toward the end of last year. This controversy began when Indie game developer Zoe Quinn received explicit phone calls along with threatening messages via social media.  The threats were the result of a blog post from an ex-boyfriend alleging that she was romantically involved with a journalist from the gaming site Kotaku and received favorable reviews for her game as a direct result of this relationship. 

    The allegations were found to be false, the reporter never critiqued her game, yet that didn’t stop the reaction by what later became known as the Gamergate movement.  Proponents of the movement claim they are only interested in discussing the ethics of media and reporting in relation to how games are reviewed.  However, the argument that the movement solely cared about journalism ethics in game reviews is not an easy sell as multiple women in the gaming industry fled their homes after their addresses and personal information was published by those claiming to be associated with #GamerGate.

    It’s difficult to piece together what this movement really was, who supported it and what it stood for as most action surrounding Gamergate was shrouded in anonymity via 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter[1]. It’s no secret that there are glaring diversity issues in the world of technology and Gamergate serves as a small illustration of the challenges facing an industry dominated by the white male demographic. 

    According to the Department of Labor in 2013 only 20% of software developers were women.  Not only that but women who have computer or mathematical occupations earn $214 dollars per week less than men, that’s roughly $11,000 less annually[2].  Today women are earning the majority of all bachelor’s degrees (57%) and yet only make up about 12% of those earning computer science degrees.  It hasn’t always been this way, in 1984 more women graduated with computer science degrees than women that will graduate with the same degree in 2014[3]. I think this downward trend really leads back to culture and early education opportunities.      

    While the gender gap in tech is wide, it’s certainly not the only diversity issue facing the industry.  Google released employment statistics this past May, giving the public an inside glimpse at some of the broader diversity challenges facing one of the world’s most well-known tech companies.  For instance, of the 46,000 employees only 2% are African American and 3% are Hispanic. With 72% of all leadership roles within the company are currently held by Caucasians (79% male)[4].

    It’s not all doom and gloom for the tech world though, Google and other giants seem to be taking steps to improve the diversity problem. The fact that Google made its internal numbers public illustrates a fundamental shift in perspective.  It also pledged a $50 million dollar investment in STEM education to help progress the early education of students in science and engineering.  On a similar note Code.org teamed up with the White House to promote its new computer literacy campaign called “Hour of Code.” Over 33,000 schools in 166 countries participated and devoted an hour of time towards teaching students to code![5] The White House also announced plans to have over 50 school districts including the 7 largest districts in the country offer introductory Computer Science courses.  These courses are specifically aimed at introducing girls and minorities to the industry at an early age.[6]

    Furthermore, there were some historic industry headlines at the end of the year that indicates an industry shift towards becoming more inclusive. Tim Cook became the first openly gay CEO of a fortune 500 company.  In September, Obama announced that Megan Smith would be succeeding Todd Park as the U.S. CTO, the first woman in that position. Smith is also openly gay. 

    While the industry continues to evolve and make positive changes, there is still a lot of work to be doneGamergate alone serves as an illustration of the massive hurdles that still stand in the way of diversity in the tech world.


    [1] If you’re interested in reading up on thebackstory of the controversy, the Washington Post has an easily digestible guide to the movement.

    [2]The State of Women in Technology: 15 Data points you should know” by Lyndsey Gilpin, TechRepublic

    [3]When Women Stopped Coding”  by Steve Henn, NPR

    [4]Google Statistics Show Silicon Valley has a Diversity Problem” by Gail Sullivan, Washington Post

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