Don’t be fooled by arguments of meritocracy: sexism in tech culture continues even as new research — and common sense — points to women as being uniquely suited to coding.
Yet under-representation of women remains a blight on the otherwise free-wheeling reputation of startup culture. Talent alone, it appears, is not the singular factor for hiring and promotion that some insist it is.
In truth, sexism has changed in the workplace over the decades. The Mad Men era of overt, lascivious sexism is much less visible today. To many people, that change signals the end of sexism, which couldn’t be further than the truth. As with many social justice issues, economic tools of systemic oppression remain firmly in place despite the cultural shift away from the more obvious, forthright aspects of intolerance.
Women leave the tech industry mid-career at the alarming rate of 56 percent. That means that most women who make it to the point where their career options are, by conventional wisdom, optimistic due to years of experience, actually leave the industry entirely at that point.
And that dismal number only tells the story of those who made it to that point in tech in the first place. Often, women don’t actually want to work at startups at all, as they are often notorious for extremely demanding hours, and little flexibility in time off. As an example, maternity leave is rarely an explicit option. The structure of startups hinges on the assumption that the employees will be mostly men.
Until startups consider the needs of women in tech, talented coders will continue to ignore their offers. As for those who continue to believe that men are naturally inclined to tech, their confirmation bias reinforces every time they look in on the open-floor office of the average startup, and see exactly what they expect.