Tech is booming, right? We all know that.
According to a new survey of 200 tech CEOs released by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, 59 percent expect to add jobs in 2014—up 13 percent from last year. Other reports from the San Francisco Business Times suggest that by 2020 there could be 1 million more jobs in tech than there are qualified candidates.
But the surge in tech hiring hasn’t lifted all boats. Both people of color and women are behind men in being hired for jobs, enrolling in classes, and graduating with degrees suitable for tech careers.
Ann Mai Cheng, chief information officer at Mercy Corp and former senior advisor in the State Department’s Office of Women’s Issues, said the U.S. is behind Myanmar, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Oman when it comes to educating women in computer science and technology.
“We think of these countries as restricting women,” Cheng said, “but they are also proving that women have the capabilities to thrive in computer sciences at amazing rates.”
While TechCrunch recently touted the first time women out numbered men—106 to 104—in a UC Berkeley intro to computer science course, the problem seems to be bigger than just graduating women with technology degrees.
Kara Swisher, founder and co-executive editor at Recode.net, spoke alongside Cheng during last week’s Lesbians Who Tech summit at San Francisco’s Castro Theater and said one of the biggest impediments for women in tech is seeing role models in the field.
Simply looking at the gender of a company’s CEO can almost always make accurate predictions of how many women work there, Swisher said. She pointed out that in general less than 13 percent of engineers are women, but when a company’s CEO is female, men to women engineers split almost evenly. The good news is that the numbers of women leaders in tech are growing, especially in the Bay Area.
San Francisco Business Journal’s new “40 under 40” is headlined by Brit Moran, founder and CEO of Brit + Co. The company provides an e-commerce platform that she hopes will encourage the digital generation to make DIY goods from kits she sells for projects featured on the site.
Among the other women on the list is Gretchen Curtis. Although she was an English major in college, Curtis went on to co-found Piston, a company that builds software for a global-scale private cloud. Others on the list include Danae Ringlemann, founder of the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, and Sepideh Nasiri, former global partnerships lead at Women 2.0.
In Oakland, there’s are a number of women playing leading role in Bay area tech companies. From Catherine Bracy and founder Jen Pahlka at Code for America, to mobile developer Sian Morson, Ask.com’s vice president of products Susan Morrow and Kimberly Bryant at Black Girls Code, the digital ceiling seems to be raising in the East Bay, if not cracking all together.
Still, with women earning fewer than 19 percent of computer science degrees in 2010—down 10 percent from 1991—the push to get more women into computer science programs could provide a stepping-stone towards equity in tech.
Towards that end, female Berkeley students have started CS KickStart –a group aimed at building a community of women to support female computer science majors. The student group brings new female scholars to campus a week before classes start for programming instruction, field trips and an opportunity to meet other women interested in computer science.