Do We Need More Women in Technology?

If I were organizing a local women’s technology conference, I, too, as Michael Arrington famously wrote about organizing TechCrunch conferences, would have difficulty finding women speakers.  In our local business community – with which I feel well-connected – I personally know one woman founder of an established technology company and one woman founder of a technology start-up.  I know one woman who can code.  That’s it.

Do we need more women in technology?

Kara Swisher says yes,  but I struggle with the question on many levels.

As a passionate advocate of self-determination, I don’t think we need more anyone in anything – unless they want to be there.

As a passionate opponent of injustice, however, if women want to be in technology but find barriers to entry or advancement, that would constitute a need for change, not a need for more. 

As a former worker in a single gender-dominated industry, I have questioned the “we need more” debate in another context.  The edits are mine to show the similarity and here is the source:

“…a coordinated effort to recruit male _____s is lacking, in part because some _____ experts remain unconvinced about the added value male _____s bring to the _____. 'If we want more men in _____, we'll need to see some data about the benefits of a gender-balanced corps…'"

As a start-up technology company founder, I need employees to generate revenue and fast.  What does the data say about the R.O.I. of a "gender-balanced corps"?  What’s the R.O.I. of hiring a woman for a technology company?  What’s the R.O.I. of hiring a man?  Those are sluggish questions given the urgency and momentum of taking a start-up to profitability.  Can you shovel?  Yes?  You’re hired!  Help dig!

As a resident of a college town, I know my local university has women active in information technology, but the academic-corporate divide is not one we’ve crossed.

As one willing to try to address what I perceive as an unmet need, with the support of sponsors, I attempted to begin a local network of women mobile application developers.  Our well-intentioned efforts faded.  Learning to code added another job to the too many we already had. 

Network of Women Mobile Application Developers, March 16, 2011
I work in the absence of women in technology.  Google is my 24-7, asexual co-working companion.  When Google is inscrutable, wonderful, supportive men will answer my questions readily.  But linguist Deborah Tannen's research supports the common knowledge that men and women communicate differently.

Only when I imagine the presence of local women in technology do I feel an inkling of what might be possible.  The exploration, the discovery, the synergy of shared, face-to-face conversation with many like-employed women – how I and my company would grow!

Do we need more women in technology?  I don’t know if we do.  But I do.

For further reading:

Thought Full - an app to remember

Demographics on Women in Information Technology
The Apps Women Want Report
Best Mobile Apps for Women
Women and Smartphones
Mobile App Development Business Model
How Much Does a Mobile App Cost?
Women and Mobile Apps category on Handshake 2.0

Summer Internship
Demographics on Women in Information Technology

Comments

  1. I don’t currently share this perspective with Charles Arthur, but found it of value to think about:

    “And meanwhile ask yourself whether there’s really no sexism in computing – or whether the answer to ‘why aren’t there more women in technology’ might have anything to do with the people who are already there.”

    The comments on the post offered food for thought as well.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2012/mar/22/technology-women-sexism-question

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