As debate rages about the best ways to bring more women into the technology industry — and keep them there — a new analysis asserts that even under ideal circumstances, it will be up to 15 years before major Silicon Valley firms close the gender gap.
Proposed solutions to the long-running shortage of women in tech for years have focused on the “pipeline,” with advocates for gender equity pointing to a need for getting girls and women onto educational tracks leading to tech jobs. More recently, another focus has been added: Creating workplaces and business practices that help ensure women who go into tech stay in tech.
But the new analysis indicates that even if Apple, Google and Facebook immediately began hiring women at a rate matching their share of the workforce, gender parity is many years away.
“Say Google, Facebook and Apple committed to 51 percent of new staff being women — pretty close to the overall makeup of the labor market,” said the Reuters analysis based on companies’ stated diversity numbers.
Only 31 percent of Googlers are female, while the rate is 35 percent at Facebook and 32 percent at Apple, company reports indicate.
Based on the rate their workforces grew last year, and assuming 20 percent of workers leave and are replaced annually, “it would take Apple 15 years to reach parity. Google would do it in 14, and Facebook in a faster-but-still-slow seven years,” according to Reuters’ analysis, which was contained within an op-ed.
“Silicon Valley’s persistent maleness has a few culprits,” Reuters said.
“One is the education system tech firms depend on to hire engineering and related jobs. Less than one-fifth of computer and information science majors are female, according to statistics from the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
“Companies entrench the problem by failing to promote women or retain them.”
The news service cited research from consulting firm McKinsey and women’s advocacy group LeanIn, which found that at 200 companies surveyed, 36 percent of entry-level positions went to women but in middle-management, women held only 27 percent of jobs.
“The figures were worse for positions at vice-president level or above,” Reuters reported.
The inequity in leadership composition holds true at the three Bay Area tech giants, according to their diversity numbers. Women hold 25 percent of leadership positions at Google and 29 percent at Apple. Facebook reports that women make up 28 percent of its senior leadership positions.
Through hiring more women than men, the firms could speed up closure of the gender gap, Reuters suggested.
“Set a truly bold goal of six in 10 new hires being women, keeping all else constant, and all three companies would achieve parity within six years,” Reuters said.
“The idea of setting targets might sound draconian and overly simple. Tech companies will say they hire people because of their talent not their gender. But Silicon Valley needs to start somewhere, or noticeable change will take decades.”
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