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techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

Why the Tech Industry is (Still) Failing WomenThat women are underrepresented in the startup community is hardly news. Justeight percent of startup founders are women, according to EZebis, a site thatsupports women in tech. This is despite the fact that women-led private techcompanies have been shown to achieve a 35-percent-higher return on investment.After all these years, the face of tech startups is still a young guy withfashionable stubble and thick black glasses.I’d like to think my company HootSuite is anything but a stodgy old boys club.As a social media company, the heart of our business is buildingrelationships. Our employees are by and large young, progressive and open-minded. We have a yoga studio at our headquarters and get fresh, local fruitdelivered daily. On any given day, around a dozen dogs roam the halls of ourpet-friendly office.But the numbers don’t lie. Out of every 10 people interviewed for a techposition at our office, 9 are men. We have approximately 50 engineers anddevelopers on our team, and fewer than 20 of them are women. (By contrast, thegender breakdown is closer to 50-50 for other departments.) Figuring out whythis is and what can be done about it is a question that keeps me up nights.Why? You can point to the scarcity of female role models in tech, thoughthankfully high-profile leaders like Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’sSheryl Sandberg are slowly changing that. Or you can blame it on the obstaclesto building a culture of entrepreneurialism among women: According to a recentGlobal Entrepreneurship Monitor report, more than half of women doubt theirabilities to start a business, while men report having a much more robustprofessional network for advice and inspiration.But it’s hard to get around a simple reality: Computer science, the backboneof any tech startup, is still a male-dominated field. Women comprise fewerthan 30 percent of U.S. computer science and engineering programs at theundergraduate and graduate levels, according to the National ScienceFoundation. Coding, in particular—caricatured as marathon, ramen-fueledcomputer programming sessions in movies like The Social Network—hastraditionally been seen as a guys’ thing. But does it have to be?Girl Dev is a pilot program started from our offices at HootSuite. Once a weekfor three hours, groups of women interested in improving their computer codingskills meet in our cafeteria after work. The focus is on teaching not just thebasics of HTML and CSS but more advanced topics including Javascript, PHP andapp development in a supportive and non-competitive environment.We also host monthly meetups of Ladies Learning Code, a Toronto-basedinitiative that has introduced more than 4,000 women and girls to programmingand technical skills since 2011. One Saturday a month in our office, 14mentors and roughly 40 attendees spend 8 hours working together. Importantly,it’s not all code. Mentors introduce themselves, share their personal storiesand offer insight on ways to thrive as a woman in a male-dominated industry.Creating supportive environments like these to learn computer science skillsis a start. But truly narrowing the gender gap in the startup community—likethe solution to so many challenges—comes down in large part to how we educatechildren. Providing better computer science education in public schools tokids, and encouraging girls to participate, is the only way to rewritestereotypes about tech and really break open the old boys club.To that end, Ladies Learning Code recently introduced Girls Learning Code,camps and workshops aimed specifically at 8- to 13- and 13- to 17-year-oldgirls. With a focus on teamwork, creativity and technology, the program aimsto help girls see tech as a medium for self-expression and a means of changingthe world, notes Emma Nemtin, marketing director for tech company Hubba andone of the organization’s mentors: “By giving the girls a great learningexperience, putting them in a room with dozens of other girls who also thinktechnology is cool, giving them access to mentors and role models, and thenshowing them examples of what it can mean to work in tech, we’re doingeverything we can to ensure that these girls grow up knowing that they have achoice . . . .”Did you like this post? To read my weekly insights on social media,leadership, and tech trends, just click the ‘follow’ button at the top of thispage.For more social media insight and to learn more about my company,followHootSuite on LinkedIn.

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