Since its inception, the tech industry has been heavily dominated by men. This isn’t all that surprising when you consider the history of technology. Women made many significant contributions to the fields that would ultimately converge into the consumer electronics industry, and it would be incorrect to say that the tech industry was built by men. However, it is only relatively recently that we have seen technology being marketed to women the same way it’s marketed to men.
We have finally gone beyond thinking that making a product pink constitutes ‘a female version’. Tech companies don’t produce adverts that target men and women separately, but until quite recently most adverts for technology were made with men in mind. Some would argue that tech advertising favours men still, in fact, and there is a strong argument that everything except female-specific products are marketed more to men than women.
Are Things ‘Better’ for Women in Tech Today?
No one would argue that things aren’t better today than they were a couple of decades ago. Sure, we’ve learned that there is a dedicated group of men who have convinced themselves that gender equality is a zero-sum game and that if women get more rights, men must lose out in some way. But, for the most part, people today want corporations to do more to improve representation.
But, while it is easy for any corporation to hire more women, it is much harder to make the kind of systemic changes to corporate structures that are needed to attract women in the first place. No matter what hiring policies are introduced, tech companies must overcome the preconceived notions that exist about the industry.
We all take it for granted that we have made progress as a society. Most communities today are not nearly as racist and misogynistic as they once were, and mainstream society is more tolerant and accepting than it used to be. But, this sense that progress has been made and, more importantly, that it is now a self-sustaining process can lull us into a false sense of security.
If you want an example of just how much hostility to women is simmering under the surface of the modern games industry, Gamergate provides a chilling example. We won’t rehash the whole controversy here, but a defining feature of the Gamergate movement was an open hostility towards women working in the games industry.
Incidents like this highlight why so many women are reluctant to enter into the tech industry, and video gaming in particular.
Bro Culture in Gaming
Taken in isolation, Gamergate was a shameful affair. Not only did it publicize and promote the most toxic views of the most toxic elements of the gaming community, but the muted ‘not our problem’ response from the industry was shocking. But, Gamergate isn’t an isolated incident.
Recent reporting from Kotaku (who ironically enough were at the centre of the whole Gamergate debacle) has exposed endemic sexism at a number of developers over the last few years. Their exposé on the abysmal culture of misogyny that pervaded League of Legends developer Riot Games triggered a wave of whistleblowing and exposing (the legal kind, not the Riot Games kind) that showed that, while Riot Games was involved in some of the most flagrant examples of workplace harassment to have made it into the media, it was just one example of many.
Countering the Imbalance
Now that businesses are not able to openly discriminate against women and that many have voluntarily adopted more inclusive hiring guidelines, more women are being hired by tech companies and a greater portion of those who apply will land a job. However, this in itself doesn’t address the wider issue with the tech industry, namely that it is still viewed as a male-dominated space.
More women are now hired by tech companies, but there is still work to be done in attracting women to apply for jobs in the first place. On the one hand, this means that if you apply for a tech job as a woman, you have a statistically better chance of being hired than a male applicant. However, the statistics in this regard are stark – less than 7% of roles within the US tech industry are filled by women.
What Can We Do?
Consumers often feel powerless in these situations. To some extent, the misbehaving of large corporations has come to be accepted in the way that lying by politicians has – we all know it’s wrong and shouldn’t be allowed, but for some reason we continue to allow it. However, we actually have a lot more power than many of us realize.
If you are a woman who is considering a career in the tech industry, you should not be deterred by anything above. Clearly, there are going to be challenges for any woman who enters into a male-dominated industry, but remember that there are laws in place to protect you and that you have just as much moral and legal right to be in the industry as anyone else.
And, you don’t even need to be a techie to make a difference. Many women have taken up HR roles within videogames companies so they can look out for the rights and well-being of other women who work in the industry. If this sounds like an attractive prospect for you, you should look into the master of HR degree, which will equip you with the skills you need to work in HR in any industry you choose.
The field of technology is much more hospitable to women today than it was just a decade or two ago. While unsavoury developers like Riot Games – the only video game developer to ever be investigated by the California department of labour for being obscenely misogynistic – are no doubt contributing to an atmosphere that is detrimental to women, it is important that women are encouraged to pursue the careers they want in the tech industry. It will no doubt be a challenge, but it will be a worthwhile one.