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LMHQ Women's Breakfast: Hacking the Gender Gap in Tech

Date: 10/15/2019

Time: 8:30am
Where: LMHQ, 150 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York NY

Watch Hacking the Gender Gap in Tech
Women make up half of all U.S. workers in STEM jobs, according to a 2018 Pew Research report. While there has been progress for women in some fields, such as life and physical sciences, the percentage of women has actually gone down 7% in the area with the largest job growth over this period: computer occupations. When asked to explain the lack of gender diversity in their companies, tech leaders are eager to turn to the “pipeline problem”: girls are not exposed to computer science and coding, thus they choose not to pursue careers in tech. However, to quote Reshma Saujani and Ayah Bdeir’s March 2019 Buzzfeed article: 
 
“To call it a pipeline problem is to suggest that the issue is girls themselves [...]. We know that’s not true. Girls in elementary school show equal interest and aptitude as boys when it comes to coding, and then they start to see subtle and not-so-subtle signals that technology is not for them. They start to feel pressure from parents and teachers to be perfect, to get all A grades, to succeed in school. They look for role models in the field and see men in hoodies coding alone in their basements. They hear that the tech industry is not for them, and read accounts of bias and harassment from the women who do make it”.
LMHQ’s October Women’s Breakfast featured the women leading the charge to combat these systemic challenges via organizations that focus on “persistence, not just initial exposure” across all stages of the pipeline. The discussion covered many topics, but a few key points included:
  • Women show a few patterns in approaching tech studies and careers: they had shown early interest but been actively discourgaged from pursuing a STEM related field/career; they had never had access to tech education; or, they were facing a workplace-specific issue or career pivot
  • To chalk up gender disparity in tech to the pipline problem is "surface-level" and naive; those who do have only most surface-level understanding of the larger societal and cultural issues at play; in many ways, the pipline issue is actually a financial issue
  • What are the most important resources a company/organization can offer? A strong, supportive community; transparency; concerted effort to fulfill "quotas" when used implemented correctly 
 
Speakers included:
  • Michele Cantos, Director of the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy
  • Madeline Cobb, Founding Membership and Partnership Manager, TechLadies
  • Dr. Yvonne De La Pena, Ph.D., Director of BridgeUP: STEM at the American Museum of Natural History
  • Amy Furman, Director of Strategic Planning & Operations, Women in Tech NY (WiTNY) at Cornell Tech
  • Danielle Moodie-Mills, Advisor, Lesbians Who Tech
 

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