Innovation Hub: Why Tech’s Women Problem Is Bigger Than You Think

You’ve seen the numbers. And they’re not good.

At Apple, Twitter, Google, and Facebook, women are vastly outnumbered by men. When it comes to technical positions like coders, men occupy 80 to 90 percent of the positions. Which isn’t a great sign if these represent the jobs—and skill sets—of the future.

The startup scene is also dominated by men, and most studies show that fewer that 5 percent of venture capitalists are women.

So what does it feel like as a woman in the tech trenches? And how do we address the problem?

I talked with venture capitalist Eurie Kim, Principal at Forerunner Ventures, and Sheri Atwood, CEO of SupportPay. Here’s a taste of our conversation:

[This interview has been edited and condensed. For the full conversation, visit innovationhub.org.]

Kara Miller: Sheri, there’s been a lot of media coverage of this issue. But what is your day-to-day experience like as a woman in the tech world?

Sheri Atwood: Well, there has been a lot of media coverage. Unfortunately, it is sort of true. There are definitely events that I go to, and it’s mostly men. Actually, mostly young men, probably under the age of 25. But it also shows me the huge opportunity for women to build companies with problems that are not being addressed today.

Kara Miller: Eurie, in your view, what’s going on? Why are there not women in the pipeline for tech jobs?

Eurie Kim: It’s so frustrating because you would love to believe that we could get the girls early enough, if that means you have to go to high school and get them involved in science and math classes. Or if it goes back even further to 3rd or 4th grade, but I personally feel like that’s what we end up having to do. There are a lot of side educational companies that are popping up where you can learn how to code, and I think that the more that parents can encourage their daughters to get involved in that—to think it’s fun—that’s the starting point of it all.

Sheri Atwood: I absolutely agree with that, and I think that the fundamental problem is being a coder or a developer or doing engineering or technology is simply not seen as being cool for girls. I have a 10-year-old daughter, and I can certainly say that she’s excited because in her computer science class, she gets to say that her mom codes and develops. But mostly it’s the boys and the dads that are talked about.

Kara Miller is the host of “Innovation Hub,” a national radio program that features the thinkers, researchers, and visionaries who are crafting the future. She is based at WGBH Radio in Boston. Follow @IHubRadio

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