By Kevin Clark
Attempting to narrow the gender gap in the male-dominated tech industry, the city of Los Angeles is sponsoring a three-day conference in Playa Vista to address issues women face in technical fields. The Wonder Women Tech event, which starts Friday, will feature more than 50 female leaders from the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, industries.
The purpose of the conference was to provide support and a space for discussion for women working in an industry that some see as hostile toward women. Over the weekend, coding classes were offered for young people. In a “hackathon,” students and professionals will worked to create websites and mobile applications designed specifically to address needs and concerns of women in tech.
Last year, several high profile tech companies released numbers about their employee demographics, revealing a workforce that is largely white and male. Female engineers account for 17 percent of Google and LinkedIn employees, 15 percent at Facebookand Yahoo, and 21 percent at Pinterest.
The root of this discrepancy goes back to education. In 2011 about 18 percent of computer science degrees went to women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But reports indicate that about half the women who begin careers in tech end up leaving for jobs in other industries.
In an article in last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times about women leaving the tech space, several women spoke about a hostile male culture, a sense of isolation and lack of a clear career path — a reality corroborated by a 2008 study by the Harvard Business Review. A 2014 study found that the tech industry remains a rather inhospitable place for women. A global survey of MBA graduates found that 53 percent of female MBA graduates who enter the tech sector leave for another industry.
The same study found that 31 percent of male MBA graduates who enter tech also end up leaving. Wonder Women Tech was free and was open to the public. We wish that there would have been more women and girls of color in attendance over the three day event., maybe next year we can get the word out through our Dakar network.