Where Are the Tech Women?

April 23, 2014 at 11:24 am

PBS NewsHour Weekend‘s Hari Sreenivasan sits down with Jovena Whatmoor, co-organizer of NYTechWomen, to talk about women – or the lack thereof – in the booming tech sector.

Jobs in New York City’s tech sector have increased by 18 percent over the past decade, far outpacing the general city economy at 12 percent and the national economy at 4 percent. But the prosperity has not been spread evenly – men outnumber women in technology fields by seven to three in the city and three to one nationally. PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan asked NYTechWomen co-organizer Jovena Whatmoor why that is and what can be done about it.

“[The] disparity actually  happens very early on,”  Whatmoor said. “Look at the toys that we give girls to play with compared to the toys we give boys to play with and what we’re encouraging girls to learn and excel at in school.” The disparity only increases as girls get older, and many who complete a degree in a tech field and even enter the workforce in that field eventually drop out – 56 percent by midcareer, double the rate for men.

NYTechWomen gives women a forum where they can interact with peers working in tech and learn about which companies may have programs that are beneficial to women and have a more balanced ratio of men to women in the office. It also works with other organizations to support girls who are still in school and show interest in tech or engineering fields.

Whatmoor is also the founder of Skillfer, a tech recruiting and placement firm, and said that her experience has been that more often than not tech firms are actively looking for women to join their teams. “The companies as they’re growing…see the value of having a ratio of more women on their team, they see the value of having that diversity,” she said.

When asked what needs to be done to encourage girls who don’t have a strong role model in the house as she did, Whatmoor said “Well you have to find those women outside of the house if they’re not in the house. There are organizations that help put women into schools to teach girls…so that [they] can be exposed to women in that career field so they can see…that that’s a real option for them.”