Friday, October 7, 2011

The Down Low on the High Tech Women Workforce: Numbers Could Be Better

Download this: for all the achievements high technology has accomplished in recent years at bringing different people together, when it comes to the high-tech workplace, women are still being left out.

That’s the troubling conclusion reached by the Level Playing Field, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that researches educational and workforce inequality. Their data, released last week, reveals that women working at high tech IT and startup companies continue to feel isolated compared to their male peers – and even feel belittled and bullied in the work place, resulting in high job dissatisfaction. And, despite encouraging signs that women make up 46% of the workforce and half of all college graduates, a paltry 22% include the high-tech marketplace – an area critical for 21st century advancement.

So why don’t women feel more empowered to successfully tackle tech? There are many theories – here’s a snapshot of two:

#1 – With all that has changed in the American workforce in recent decades, it’s hard to remember that only a short while ago, women, were relegated to secondary positions in male-dominant corporate hierarchies. Is there a residue of (outdated) beliefs still filtering through the last bastions of male-only (or mostly male) domains?

#2 – The age-old throwaway: “Women and technology don’t mix.” I always find that one amusing considering the first waves of modern office and domestic inventions were consistently in the stereotyped sphere of women’s use.

The bottom line? Technology and women do mix. Women-led startups generate higher revenue per dollars of invested capital and have lower failure rates, according to Cindy Padnos, founder of Illuminate Ventures, a venture capital firm catering toward woman business leaders. Women-run high tech companies, her research found, had annual revenues that were 12% higher, using a third less capital.

It’s fitting, perhaps, that October is National Bullying Prevention month. While the initiative –a collective work by a variety of nonprofits –is geared largely toward children and teens, it’s nevertheless a good time to remember that bullies, like other bad apples in a high school or college class, graduate too. Upon receiving their diploma where do they go? The office.

As Public Relations professionals –an industry that has enjoyed an unprecedented male-female flip-flop with 85 percent of the field’s employees being women – we can work with our male and female clients alike, helping them craft a more balanced message about who they’re looking to recruit internally and who their products or messages are directed toward externally. Nobody likes a bully and everyone can afford to be a little more inclusive. Now that this boss (who happens to be a woman) is about to get her own cup of coffee, (don’t need an assistant of either sex for that) let me post this high tech blog –before I magically forget how.

You know…. ‘cause I’m a woman. Please.

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