Chart of the Day: The gender gap in Silicon Valley

Just how stark is the gender gap in Silicon Valley? According to Obama’s former technology head honcho Catherine Bracy, reeeeeally bad. Women make just 49 cents for every dollar men make there. Via Mother Jones, here’s a chart that drives it home:

seeding money breakdown by gender


In 2010, 89 percent of California companies that got crucial seed funding were founded by men, while just 3 percent had all women founders. And the break down by race is laughable–the 1 percent of black founders doesn’t even show up in the pie. But, as we’ve learned, tech totally doesn’t have a race problem–it’s a meritocracy!

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  1. Posted June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Silicon Valley’s demographics are directly correlated to the demographics of the average CS program. Heck, the average CS program is probably less that 8% female; the one at my school was probably in the 3-5% range. That number has nothing to do with math capability, as you don’t need strong math skills to do CS, although it helps with some of the higher level stuff. Nor is it a matter of girls being unwilling to put in the effort, as the hardest major at my school (Chemical Engineering) is 30% girls. It all comes down to society’s bias regarding computers. Society things CS is boy’s work (See: The Social Network), and as a result boys are typically encouraged to start coding early (in high school), while girls are turned off by something that looks unfeminine. Coding has no gender, of course, but the culture does, and it pushes girls away and draws boys in. The boys that start coding at 14 have a huge leg up by the time they reach college, and I suspect a large percentage of Silicon Valley coders (the guys who cause that gender pay gap to occur), started coding at a young age, probably a younger age on average then the female coders.

    In short, CS started as a boy’s club, and it largely remains that way. I’m not really sure how to effect change in a culture (I’m a math major, not something like sociology or anthropology that would know something like that), but it’s definitely not going to change organically. Maybe the universal introduction of computers to all kids will change that (all kids love Club Penguin), but as long as CS is associated with social awkwardness, cheetos, and poor hygiene, those numbers aren’t going to change, and may very well get worse.

  2. Posted June 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    This has also changed over time. When I started in the industry, there were very few female programmers. That changed over time, and from the mid-80s on, I started to see a large number. I don’t recall if it ever reached parity, but it definitely stopped feeling like an all-boys club.

    But by the mid-00s, the women starting vanishing again. CS programs were having problems attracting female students, and companies have been trying to recruit them. Believe me, nobody wants to keep women out of this profession – we have an ongoing shortage of good programmers.

    I disagree with Thomas on the cause, though. Programming is largely a heads-down/high-focus/solo practice. My understanding is that such is exactly the kind of thing that men tend to enjoy significantly more than women. The Agile practice of Pair Programming might change that to some extent, but that’s been a hard sell in most organizations.

    • Posted June 9, 2013 at 3:11 am | Permalink

      Interesting comment, I get the feeling we have vastly different views on how programming is and should be conducted. That’s probably because you’re in the industry, whereas I just took classes at a top tier CS school that regularly sends people off to Microsoft (my frat brother got in with a 2.8 CS major. Apparently the hardest classes offered at state schools are sophomore classes at my school, so he said).

      Programming should always be a group effort. Pair programming at minimum, 3-4 people for bigger projects, that’s the way it was always done at my school, and it worked well. All programming beyond the trivial should be collaborative. I suppose that changing methodology to accommodate pair programming is hard, as changing methodology is always hard, but organizations that fail to do so will fossilize and die.

      There’s a massive difference in my eyes between programming as it is truly done and programming as it is perceived in popular culture. Girls are turned off by the latter, but I find they often like the former (at least as much as boys do, picking up programming from scratch is hard). The problem is cultural, not inherent to programming itself. Hopefully the future bears out my view of it and not yours, it would be sad to see the gender gap solidify and possibly get worse.

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