We have a shocking statistic for you: 91.5% web developers are male, according to a 2020 global software development survey. And as of 2022, women claim only 26.7% of jobs across all tech fields. PwC discovered that only 27% of female students said they’d consider a career in tech - and only 3% would make tech their first choice. But 61% of male students said they’d consider the same tech career, so what’s going on? It’s proven that women in tech are quite beneficial and here’s why:
Different voices: a huge part of tech roles are anticipating and solving problems that people have and women can provide unique experiences that can help make tech solutions more accessible and effective for everyone.
Mentors: a huge barrier to women entering the tech industry is that they don’t see women in leadership roles and don’t have too many female mentors available to them. It is difficult to implement, but more female tech leaders would encourage younger women to also join the industry.
Workplace culture: studies show that workplaces with equitable gender distribution have safe environments, boast better workplace satisfaction, and increase safety.
Better products: it’s natural that we use our personal experiences when we’re creating something and a product designed by men will center male experiences. When women are involved in the design process, it can incorporate different and women-specific experiences.
Before we dive into the specifics of women in web development, let’s discuss women in tech in general.
Women in Tech
Women are underrepresented in technology: it’s a simple fact. Only 5% of US startups are owned by women and just 5% of UK tech leaders are women. And why is this? The reasons are numerous, but we’ll focus on three:
Societal bias: gender bias is a huge factor in how certain jobs are perceived and what girls think they can achieve; female tech leaders are rarely mentioned and the vast majority of tech jobs (especially c-suite roles) are held by men. If you’re a ten year old girl and see companies made up almost entirely by men, the natural assumption is that it’s not for you. And if girls aren’t seeing tech as an option from a young age, it’s hard to change that mindset later on.
Education: societal bias has permeated school systems and as young girls don’t see STEM classes with a female majority, they think that it’s not for them. And the lack of tech-focused classes early on makes it less likely that girls will choose to pursue tech careers later in life.
Workplace systems: in addition to largely lopsided workforces with a clear majority of men, company leadership in tech is mainly men; we haven’t even mentioned the fact that women earn lower salaries, have limited growth opportunities, and face discrimination daily.
When surveyed, women named these five reasons as the main barriers facing them in tech: lack of mentors, lack of role models, gender bias at work, unequal growth opportunities, and unequal pay.
Women in Web Development
When we try to answer the question “why aren’t more women choosing web development?”, we face a lot of harsh realities. Naomi Timperley, Director of Tech North Advocates at Entrepreneurial Spark says:
“Girls are being left out of the conversation when it comes to technology. They’re led to think tech is insular and antisocial. And they’re never given a chance to correct those perceptions. This pattern might start in our homes, but it has serious implications for our economy and for women at large. If women don’t participate in tech, they are losing the chance to influence the largest economic and social change of this century. Girls need to seek tech in their surroundings and understand that people have created that tech.”
The root of the lack of women in web development is two-part; on one side, it’s ingrained in what young girls hear at home and on the other hand, the webdev work environment itself can be toxic towards women and uninviting. To fight these two problems, there are a number of actions to take:
Create a safe environment for women: the statistics on sexual harassment in the tech workplace are shocking. 60% of women with ten or more years in tech report unwanted sexual advances and 50% of senior women in tech have experienced or witnessed sexual assault within the last five years. And let’s not even get into reporting sexual harassment: 4 out of 10 women who experience sexual harassment won’t report it out of fear of repercussions on their career.
Encourage tech education in young girls: coding is for everyone and organizations like Women in Tech are working to empower girls and women across the world to get into tech and make a difference.
Focus on diversity and inclusion: having women in tech roles is one thing, but ensuring their voices are heard and that they’re treated like equals is another thing entirely. A lot of business deals happen outside the workplace and 66% of women reported they felt excluded from social networking opportunities because of their gender.
Work to eliminate double standards and biases (both conscious and unconscious): the current setup of leadership boards and companies in general was designed for men and to see real change, these systems need to be redesigned to eliminate biases; although there are certainly cases where individuals within the company discriminate against women, the system itself is faulty. Some main topics here would be:
No longer asking women about their plans to have a family and/or how that will affect their career.
Addressing biases regarding women who negotiate and have strong opinions; they’re frequently called aggressive or bossy - something not attributed to male coworkers who act the same.
Making promotions based on skills and hard results instead of perception or connections.
Female leaders in web development
Despite the myriad of problems facing women in web development, a number of today’s top leaders are female. Learning from their experiences can help not only encourage young girls to dive into tech, but also highlight areas for improvement within the industry. And don’t forget: women have been major players in tech throughout history:
Ada Lovelace was the world’s first computer programmer in 1840.
The team to create the first computer ENIAC was 100% female.
The first high-level programming language was created by Grace Hopper in 1959.
American computer scientist Margaret Hamilton introduced the term “software engineering.”
Let’s check out some of web development’s leading female voices:
Located in Poland, Beata is an IT coach, consultant, and full stack developer. In addition to her wide range of skills in programming, she’s an active mentor at Learn IT, Girl! and Tech Leaders Poland, writing articles for the IT Professional and Lubelski Programista magazines. She owns her own company and offers free expert consultations.
Sara J. Chipps
Jenny founded the Women in Web Dev Facebook group which now boasts more than 5,000 members across all levels of expertise. She works as a freelance developer and remains focused on growing her online community to help women enter the field.
There are tons of women that are excelling daily in web development, but it’s on us to continue growing that number, supporting young girls interested in the field, and creating safe and supportive work environments for women in tech.