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    Women in Tech: Landscape in Chicago

    The perception that women are making strides of gaining equality in the workplace is significantly skewed in regards to technological positions.

    Women working on a project together
    The perception that women are making strides of gaining equality in the workplace is significantly skewed in regards to technological positions.
    Surprisingly, the percentage of women in tech roles has been decreasing in the last three decades. Resulting in a paradoxical shift of more women entering the workforce in increasing numbers as the number of those women going for technology jobs decreases.
    So what needs to change?
    To start with, the American society, especially those individuals in technology industry need to be aware that there is still a stereotype and perception against women in technology positions.
    Secondly, educational institutions and technology companies need to promote and recognize women’s contribution to the technology industry.
    For instance, cities like Chicago have organizations and agencies that are focusing driving the involvement of women in the tech industry.


    In order to fully understand the magnitude of an issue of the low involvement of women in the technology industry, it first it is important to reflect on the true history of women in tech.
    At one point in American history, women once dominated the computer industry. It is through a misguided historical narrative that results in a “blatant omission to further confuse the misperception of women as inferior, incapable, or otherwise disinterested workers.”
    More of an analysis on the history of women and the implications of how it affected and resulted in the circumstances of today is illustrated in “The Surprisingly Unknown History of Women Computing.” Currently, women in computer jobs have dropped from 35 percent in the 1980s to less than 25 percent today, despite the fact that women comprise over 50 percent of today’s US workforce.


    Perception of women in the technology industry is significantly skewed. Take a look at the percentage differences for three of the top technology companies in the world.
    Google: Women comprise of 28 percent of the company’s overall workforce but only 17 percent of those women are in tech positions.
    Facebook: Women make up about 29 percent of company’s overall and yet only half of those women are in tech roles.
    Twitter: Similar to Google, only 28 percent of women make up Twitter’s workforce, which is cut to a ridiculous 10 percent for tech roles that are staffed by women.
    The chart below outlines these sad numbers of women in technology companies, showing the “equal” gender split of women in the workplace is not reflective in the technology industry.
    Currently the technology company with the highest ratio of women to men in tech is 37 percent, and that is Amazon. This number, although nowhere near an equality point, is higher than both the current industry average and historical averages.


    Chicago, in comparison to other metropolitan cities in the US in regards to women in tech, have the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs at 30 percent.
    More importantly, Chicago is a hub of many organizations that focus on driving innovation and women’s involvement in the technology industry. Below are some of the prominent organizations.
    Ms.Tech is a membership organization that provides a learning community for women in technology ventures and innovative companies inspirations and connections to grow. They also provide job postings for open positions in tech related fields, like a UX design agency.
    Girls Develop Chicago is a nonprofit organization which provides affordable programs for adult women interested in learning web and software development in a judgement-free environment. The organization was started by women who were tired of their low representation in tech and wanted to change the paradigm.
    Chicago Women Developers is a more specialized organization that is run by a group of women from a variety of backgrounds and technical expertise. The values of this organization are directed at coding and the greater landscape of women in tech.
    Unlike majority of technology companies, the ratio of women to men in the office as a whole to those specific to technology positions is actually greater for the latter. Overall women in the Chicago office at Codal comprise of 30% whereas the women in the tech positions, like the UX design services are at 50%.


    In order to have women have a bigger role in the technology industry, the conversation of women’s history and importance in technology needs to begin. Women with a technology passion also need to confront the stereotypes of women in tech.
    Design and development is not a gender specific skill set. More importantly, since technology is for a universal product and service, those creating it should not be of one group.

    Written by Clare Bittourna