Seattle prides itself on a vibrant tech industry. But women aren't a very big part of it yet.
When I moved to Seattle three years ago, friends told me that a career in technology was the place to be. So of course, that’s where I directly headed. But within a few months, it became apparent that tech jobs were great — if you were a straight, white man who loved to socialize after work. I didn’t stay long.
So I wasn’t surprised to see a new study that ranked Seattle 39th in a national list of 58 best cities for women in tech. We were particularly let down by our high gender wage gap — local women in tech make 80.6 cents to a man’s dollar (the national average gender pay gap is 86.7 cents.) Furthermore, only 20.8 percent of tech jobs here are filled by women versus the national average of 26.5 percent.
I have four recommendations on how we can flip those numbers.
Equal pay for equal work. Companies must track how much they’re paying their male employees compared with female employees. Even when a gender wage gap is unintentional — as it often is — denial won’t solve any problems. California-based tech giant Salesforce announced it would spend $3 million correcting the gap in pay between male and female employees at its company. It only found out a gap existed after proactively crunching the numbers.
Fix tech’s bro culture. The tech culture favors young, white men who often connect over alcohol, post-work gaming and other similar activities. Women, especially those with children, are categorically left out. Tech companies should work toward creating a variety of recruiting and “culture-building” events and activities. One size doesn’t fit all.
Propel women into leadership positions. Women rarely line the boardrooms or executive teams of local tech companies. Leaders must actively identify high-potential female employees early and create a path for them to grow within the company. Merely recruiting entry-level women and expecting them to thrive isn’t a viable long-term strategy.
Skills training. More opportunities must be made available for building a pipeline for girls to launch into a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). But equally important is for there to be greater opportunities for women who want to update their skills to transition into a STEM career. Tuition-free developer training school Ada Developers Academy is an encouraging start, but our private and public sector must make greater investments to drive change so that women can partake in the industry’s fastest-growing and highest-paying jobs.
Seattle is well on its way to building a world-class tech industry, but can’t do it without fully engaging one-half of our workforce. In the future, I would love to see Seattle in the top three spots of the best cities for women in tech.