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Silicon Valley’s Gender Balance Woes Start Before People Are Even Hired

Even when looking for internships out of school, women are staying away from the tech field.

Silicon Valley’s Gender Balance Woes Start Before People Are Even Hired
[Top Photo: Estelle Johnson/EyeEm/Getty Images]

Internships are a great window into hiring trends, and those trends don’t look so good for Silicon Valley’s efforts to recruit more women.

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Looksmart is the company behind InternMatch, a platform for students and recent graduates to find internship opportunities. It accumulates a lot of data about internships: who gets placed where, what people’s dream internships are, how much they get paid and if they get paid at all, and more. Looksmart recently released a report on the “state of college hiring.”

One of the most striking findings is the divide along gender lines for preference in industry. According to the report, more than 36% of men would prefer an internship in technology, while less than 13% of women would. At a time when Silicon Valley has come under increased scrutiny for the lack of diversity in its employees, this finding should be alarming. It could show that there is something endemic to the tech sector that is unappealing to women, perhaps even just its perception of being a boy’s club. It could also be that fewer women feel they are qualified for an internship in tech.


Their data shows that over half of students–63% of males and 46.5% of females–have taken computer science classes explicitly to increase their job prospects. Clearly students recognize the importance of technology skills, even if they aren’t interested in careers in the field. This also suggests that the remedy can’t be as easy as getting more women to take computer science courses.

Meanwhile, fields heavily preferred by women over men including marketing and public relations (42% for women to 28% for men) and health care (21% to 15%). Government is the field most evenly split, with about a quarter of both men and women saying they would pursue an internship in the field.

Other depressing indicators are that what students believe is a fair wage for internships varies sharply by gender, with male students wanting $14.37 per hour on average, while female students would settle for 84% of that: $12.01. Still, it’s not quite as bad as the actual 78 cents to the dollar that women do earn in the workplace, so maybe things are looking up?

About the author

Jay is a freelance journalist, formerly a staff writer for Fast Company. He writes about technology, inequality, and the Middle East.

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