No doubt there are more guys than girls in tech conferences. If you haven’t noticed, it’s fine. (Hobbits also lived in a hole and we still like them!) But as a woman in tech, I tried to understand “why so” from a personal standpoint. I embarked on a journey. I talked to a diverse range of industry experts and filtered through numerous data points and considerations. Here's 5 unsettling truths about female (under) representation in tech & why diversity matters.
Reason #1: "There’s Just Less Women in Tech."
True. Numbers don't lie. Several studies pointed out different numbers, but in every case men outnumbered women in tech. According to stats published by the Huffington Post, in the US only 26% of computing-related jobs are taken by women, and the gap is getting bigger. Another publication by Forbes pointed that women have only around 25% of representation as speakers in Tech Events.
In Asia, ratios scream even louder of under-representation of women in tech. There’s allegedly a meagre 5% females in startups and only 8% out of these hold positions on the board of directors, according to study made in the 2015 by Female Founders.
But there’s a bright outlook for this ratio to see improvement in the near future, based on educational efforts being taken today to work toward a more diverse future, as seen in this article by Peng T. Ong, managing partner at Monk's Hill Ventures in Singapore.
Reason #2: We Can’t Find Enough Women to Fill the Stage
False. Naturally, if there’s less women in Tech, we can expect the same at Tech events, right? Wrong.
There’s multiple efforts to bring up more females in tech to light. According to Arnaud Bonzom’s article, there’s at least 88 reasons not to have an all-male panel in Southeast Asia. And here’s another hack: organizations like EWEC Asia have curated a list of organizations for women in tech and business in Southeast Asia. These organizations and their leaders know a lot of women who are doing a great job in business, but maybe not in branding themselves.
If you want to reach out directly, moregirls.co was begun to allow tech event organizers who want to improve the ratio of women on the stage at tech events to reach out directly to women in tech. The site will soon include a better UX to help you filter and find the right expertise/profile.
Reason #3: We Invited Them, They Said No (or Didn’t Reply)
True. Although it seems to be the least measurable, the issue has a name: the “Confidence Gap.”
“Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them,” Harvard Business Review reminds us in this article. They add that “the finding comes from a Hewlett Packard internal report, and has been quoted in Lean In, The Confidence Code and dozens of articles.” Women seem to be more wary than men when it comes to showcasing their expertise. Some become the “operations” or “backend” to their male founder, who often speaks at events.
This is one of the reasons why I started “moregirls.co,” a network where women can share opportunities, knowledge and advice to help each other to grow their business with a strong focus on personal branding.
Reason #4: We (Literally) Think Differently
According to this article “male and female brains process the same neurochemicals but to different degrees and through gender-specific body-brain connections.” We do think different, although differences vary from each individual (in a hyberbola fashion).
While our brains are built up just the same (there’s studies on that, go read) and hormonal intakes vary from individual to individual, estrogen and testosterone play considerably different roles in the formation of our brains. Generally, that boys get a higher “intake” of testosterone than women, who get more estrogen. Estrogen leads to a more “holistic” way of viewing the world, while Testosterone gives individuals an stronger ability to focus.
More “testosteronic” individuals are often regarded as straight-forward, decisive, or even “narrow-minded.” More estrogenic individuals can be often “see the big picture” and are seen as more “empathetic”, but can also sound “indecisive.”
In general, what we regard as successful and desirable in the traditional business world are rather “testosterone-driven” skills. Which leads to our next point.
Reason #5: There’s a Cultural Bias about What “Success” Means
We live in a society built over hundreds of years based on a male-driven economy, since the philosophical pillars under which our contemporary society was built were predominantly crafted by man. Fact.
For most of our modern history, women haven’t had the same rights to speak up and decide as men (it’s been less than 100 years that women were granted voting rights in the US).
Focus, decisiveness and straight-forwardness, which are generally well regarded qualities today’s business world, are also indicators of higher levels of testosterone.
Mind that women can be quite straight forward and that may be due to higher testosterone levels, but also due to education or cultural adaptation. Both genders have testosterone and estrogen running in different levels. It doesn’t mean that “women are network-driven,” nor that “men are authoritarian.” There’s more complexity to our personality: cultural influences and other aspects influence us, beyond a mere cocktail of hormones, but mind the gap.
Overall, what we regard as “successful” are predominantly masculine traits (coincidentally or not derived from testosterone).
If curious on this topic, check out this personality test designed for the workplace by David Labno and Helen Fischer, a leading expert on the science of relationships (who created the compatibility questionnaire taken by over 14 million people on Match.com).
The Time is Now, But Why? Because We Want To.
Times have changed.
In a world in which innovation is a fundamental aspect for survival, companies are craving for a more “network-driven” approach where top experts contribute to decision-making, rather than an authoritarian boss sending orders from top management.
A rather collaborative and empathetic work environment becomes economically viable.
Although it isn’t exclusively due to women influence (there’s lots of very “testosteronic-men” who are extremely empathetic), it is thanks to a cultural shift, which is also a result of a progressive rise in our collective consciousness regarding human rights, women's rights included.
It is about “equality” - being understood as a fundamental step for sustainable progress.
Minding the Gap: Women Are Speaking Up!
There’s a growing number of women adding to the diversity; here are some power profiles you can find at Techsauce Global Summit 2017.
Check their profile out here >>> Good Sauce: 6 Outstanding Women You Can't Miss at Techsauce Global Summit 2017
After being repeatedly asked to “refer to” or “bring more women to our tech event” (which generally took me some hours of personal invitations and e-mail intros), I decided to keep it simple by adding most of the women in tech on my contact list to a WhatsApp group. What initially was set to bring more girls to an AWS Summit in KL became an organic, self sustaining community. Over 100 female entrepreneurs in the region signed up overnight. It was initially called “More Girls at Tech Events,” but we simplified it to “moregirls.co”. Today, we’re set on the purpose to “share and spread” opportunities for women in tech through:
Lais de Oliveira is an entrepreneur and community builder who founded and sold her first business (8spaces.co) to Flyspaces.com, Southeast Asia's largest marketplace for workspace and spaces for professional activities, where she currently works as Malaysia Country Manager and Chief Community Officer. Driven by building ecosystems to empower entrepreneurship and creativity, she has built some of the fastest-growing startup communities in Malaysia on behalf of Startup Grind, Techstars (Startup Digest), TheList.KL and MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre). Bio: http://moregirls.co/profile.html#
Meet Lais de Oliveira and other women in tech from moregirls.co and around the globe at Techsauce Global Summit 2017 on July 28-29 at Bangkok's Centara Grand Convention Centre. Grab your ticket here via EventPop or EventBrite!