Many of us in the tech business have spent a lot of time pushing girls toward computer science degrees and into coding bootcamps, advocating for more women in technical roles, and trying to improve the diversity in the industry's upper ranks.
For that matter, plenty of people and organizations work tirelessly every day to show why diversity benefits everyone—regardless of identity, background, or profession. And it does. But closing the gender gap in the tech sector in particular may hold the key to a handful of other, no less stubborn issues. Here's a look at three other challenges that helping more women succeed in technology would positively address.
One of the clearest paths to financial and career success is through technical skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, more than half of today’s jobs demand technical skills in at least some measure, a share that's been forecast to reach 77% within the next decade.
For workers who boast those skills, technology is where the money is. The average yearly wage of a U.S. tech worker is $104,000, roughly 102% more than the average wage in the private sector overall.
So the rates at which girls and young women are dropping out of computer science and STEM-related studies is alarming. In 1985, 37% of all computer and information science graduates were women, but by 2008, that number had fallen to just 18%. In middle school, 74% of girls express interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), yet 0.4% of high school girls select computer science as their intended college majors, according to Girls Who Code.
The consequences of this fall-off for the overall economy aren't hard to see. A Catalyst study suggests that companies with the most women in leadership perform 53% better financially (in terms of return on equity) than those with the least. It goes without saying that when companies do better overall, their success translates into job growth, increased profits, investment, and progress.
Research from McKinsey Global Institute indicates that five technologies—including mobile Internet, automation, and cloud commuting—will each be worth more than $1 trillion to the world economy by 2025. Without more women in tech leadership, we won't be able to take full advantage of that opportunity.
Women control $20 trillion of annual consumer spend in the U.S. What's more, women are strong tech users—outnumbering men on all major social media sites (except LinkedIn), for instance. It's safe to say that women are spending at least a sizable chunk of their purchasing power on tech products. So it makes sense to look at who's designing them.
The answer, of course, is overwhelmingly men. Only 17% of Google’s engineers, 15% of Facebook's, and 10% of Twitter's are women.
When airbags were first introduced in cars, they ended up killing a disproportionate number of women and children. The engineering teams that designed them were all men. It's tempting to think that even one woman on one of those teams might have thought to use crash-test dummies similar in stature to the average woman.
The consequences for tech products designed predominantly by men might not be so dire, but the point remains: Bringing more women into research, design, and development can lead to better products and user experience for the people who are actually going to buy and use them.
The statistics by now are familiar: on average (though there's some dispute over to this figure), women in the U.S. make 77¢ for every $1 a man makes. According to the World Economic Forum, the gender wage gap may take 118 years to close (estimates differ but are all pretty bad). While women comprise the majority of the general workforce, we only account for 25% of technical jobs.
But if more women enter the tech sector, we can begin to narrow the gap across all industries faster than we have so far. How come? For the simple reason that STEM jobs both pay more and see a smaller gender-related wage gap than non-STEM jobs, of roughly 14¢, by some estimates, rather than the higher figures we typically hear for the U.S. workforce at large.
So no matter who you are or where you work, the gender gap in tech already impacts you. Let's all start closing it together.
Heather Zynczak is chief marketing officer at Domo. Her over 20-year career has focused on bringing value to business through technology.