Overlooked, Underutilized and Unappreciated: Women in Tech
Jane, a woman who specializes in modeling and texturing of props and assets for video games and film, was hired as an intern while still in school to do 3D environment for a VR (virtual reality) project. She started work the same day as another male intern and they worked on the same project. He focused on characters and she worked on environments. Jane had more experience than her male colleague and put in the same amount of work, yet he was promoted twice in one week whereas she received no recognition.
After her colleague received his third promotion and she was left to languish, Jane realized that she was being unfairly overlooked and underutilized. Soon after, the studio asked her colleague to begin a project on Unreal (a game development engine). There was one small problem though: he’d never used Unreal before. Jane had a lot of background and experience with the program, so she decided to speak up and volunteered to do this project. Her suggestion was instantly turned down and she was told to continue with her current project.
The male intern spent two days trying to lean a new program, frequently asking Jane how to use it. Jane ended up teaching her colleague because she wanted to be a good team player and contribute to the project. She hoped that she would receive some credit for doing so but she never did. In fact, Jane was even blamed for not having enough work done because she spent so much time helping the male intern complete the project — which frustratingly took several days longer than it should have if she had been able to take the lead. Her male colleague's gender was valued over her skills and abilities to everybody's detriment.
Jane also asked three other female interns who participated in the project if they were going to receive any credit that they could later use to put on their reels (portfolio pieces meant for prospective employers). All three women had the same answer: No. The only one who received credit on the entire project was the male intern, who had less experience than the female interns as well.
Though Jane doesn’t blame her male colleague for what happened, she felt he could have stuck up for her, especially since she helped him. Jane brought this internship experience to the attention of her school, but they indicated that they didn’t want any part of the situation (presumably to keep the school's reputation spic and span) and the issue was never really addressed.
Many might find the clear gender-based discrimination Jane faced shocking in this day and age, but, unfortunately, it’s a regular occurrence in the tech industry. There has been much debate surrounding the plight of women in tech in recent years and many tech companies have come under public scrutiny for varying allegations of sexual discrimination, harassment and misogynistic company culture.
Perhaps this is why in 2013, for example, just 26 percent of computing jobs in the U.S. were held by women and why approximately 41% of women leave the tech industry after 10 years. The studio Jane worked at reflected this reality: only two of the 45 employees were women and those employees, in addition to female interns, were either alienated or felt their interactions with male co-workers were frequently flirtatious or had sexual undertones.
It's clear there needs to be a major paradigm shift in tech. The chauvinistic, “boys only” club culture in this industry increasingly alienates and demonizes women, perhaps most notably women who are just as (if not more) qualified than their male counterparts. Companies also need to be more conscious of their hiring processes, including giving hiring power to managers that have low emotional intelligence — a quality some have noted is evident among those in power in the industry.
In the meantime, individuals within the industry can actively speak up and deliberately avoid contributing to the problem. They can refuse to allow co-workers or bosses get away with discriminatory remarks or behavior, for example. There must also be official protections put in place in companies to ensure that women who report discrimination don't face retaliation by coworkers or employers.
Jane’s story is just one of many. Think about the women who don’t speak up and who silently endure until this until they can’t take it any longer. This results in far too many women resigning from — or never entering at all — an industry that innovates in ways that can benefit us all. Failing to incorporate women fully into this important sector doesn't just hurt them, therefore, but hurts us all.
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