If these high-paying jobs are dominated by men, the earning potential between men and women will continue to widen if we don't start making changes now.
Software developers now constitute the most common job in Seattle. And four out of five of them are men.
The second statistic should give us pause: One study shows that our software developers make an average annual salary of over $128,000 – which means they make almost double the $69,183 average Seattle salary.
If these high-paying jobs are dominated by men, it’s not a stretch to say that the earning potential between men and women will continue to widen if we don’t start making changes now.
One part of the problem is that fewer women get technical jobs, even if they work at a technology company.
Alarmingly, fewer women graduated with computer science degrees in 2015 (18 percent) than 1985 (37 percent). It’s necessary to create a strong, healthy pipeline of women software developers, right from encouraging girls to pursue STEM education. This is a long-term strategy.
But the fact that today women leave technical positions at twice the rate of men — that’s a problem we should be addressing right now. One huge issue I’ve heard of repeatedly is with technology recruiting, where women with technical qualifications are routinely turned down because they don’t fit the organization’s (white and male) culture. Men are often recruited into the field even without the exact qualifications.
In fact, when I tweeted this, I received a response from a Seattle-area woman who confirmed it firsthand, where her husband was able to move from construction to computer repair to now heading for a development role at a major technology company “all with nothing but another white guy who recommended him into the … positions,” she wrote.
I applaud her honesty, because whenever I bring this up with male friends working in technology, they swear up and down that they would never even consider hiring a candidate who didn’t have all the qualifications. But when I dig deeper, I hear of many more incidents of men with nontraditional paths into technology than women in the field.
Companies must understand why building technology with only white men in the room is problematic. Then, take action. The first step is to stop hiring women on track record, men on potential. If a woman doesn’t have the exact experience you were looking for, but has shown the potential to learn and excel, treat her application in the same way you would treat a man’s.
Secondly, stop hiring for “culture fit.” If your organization’s culture was created by men, then your only “fit” will be other men.
Lastly, when you bring great women and other people from underrepresented backgrounds into your technology company, work hard to make them feel included and want to stay. Being the only woman of color in my department in a previous technology job I held was a fairly miserable experience. I’ve heard great things about ADA Developers Academy’s Ally Skills workshop. In fact, get to know this incredible nonprofit organization that provides tuition-free immersive technology education for women.
With the right combination of strategizing to bring more women into the field and working to make them want to stay, we can change that four-fifths statistic. But we need to start now.