Looking over the diversity data released by major tech companies over the past several months paints a bleak picture of gender equality in the tech industry, as illustrated by this chart from Statista.

Women make up less than 40 percent of the workforce at Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter, and no more than one-fifth of the technical workforce at those companies. Non-technical employees at those companies are usually around 50 percent women, though Apple is an outlier in that regard with women only making up 35 percent of its non-technical workforce.

Microsoft was not included in the above chart because it did not release data that provides a breakdown between technical and non-technical employees. However, its most recent report said that the company’s overall workforce was only 28 percent women. Amazon has not yet released a diversity report.

Reasons why women leave science, engineering and tech fields (source: Harvard Business Review)
Reasons why women leave science, engineering and tech fields (source: Harvard Business Review)

It’s easy to pin the lack of representation on a problem with the tech industry’s pipeline, but that belies the fact that women leave science, engineering and technical fields at a rate much higher than men. A 2011 study found that 15 percent of women who graduated with an engineering degree did not go on to work in engineering, while another 20 percent entered the engineering workforce and then summarily left for another industry.

Moz CEO Sarah Bird
Moz CEO Sarah Bird

“There isn’t a simple solution to this,” said Sarah Bird, the CEO of Moz, addressing a question about the gender gap during a Seattle Rotary panel this week. “If there was, we would have figured it out, because there’s definitely a will.”

Madrona Venture Group principal Julie Sandler, who started the Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network, said computer science needs to be treated on par with math and science in schools, not just as an elective, but as a mandatory class alongside other science courses.

“If it becomes something that both boys and girls at young ages are expected to know and take an interest in, you’re going to address some of the cultural obstacles that a lot of girls face to pursue fields that are still considered kinda geeky,” Sandler said. “It should be a norm.”

Julie Sandler
Madrona’s Julie Sandler

Bird cited programs such as Ada Developers Academy as an example of efforts to close the gap, and Sandler pointed to the work of as another important initiative.

A Harvard Business School study on women in the science, engineering and technology workforce found that 56 percent of women left the tech industry. Many of those women went on to seek employment elsewhere, citing extreme work environments, hostile macho cultures and a lack of compensation as the primary reasons for their departure.

The companies that released diversity data usually did so with some pledge to do better in the future. Let’s hope they follow through.

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  • SteveB

    Can we do a gender bias report on the Marketing departments of big companies? I’m concerned that we don’t have enough men in those departments. It seems they only have 20 somethings women in those departments.

    There is NO gender bias in Hi-Tech, it is a choice that you make in your career…

    • Guest Person

      Don’t forget about the gender bias in HR and recruiting. Those departments are almost exclusively women.

      • LinkedIn Job Hunter

        Yeah! Why are all the Recruiters women, hot and young? Just visit linkedin and do your own research…

    • Guest poster

      From my point of view, this article is focuses on how important it is to encourage and support women who are interested to pursue (and stay!) in STEM positions that have since been primarily male dominated, which starts with supporting them at a young age in school in math and science classes and continuing this throughout their education. Also, there have been multiple studies about the disparities between men and women job equality in all departments (including marketing) when it comes to director and senior level positions( and I believe it is important in all lines of business to encourage and support women to stay in the industry and know that they have the ability to rise up, in both technical and non-technical positions, just as much as men do. It’s quite naive to state that the gender bias talked about in this article is solely based on an individual’s career “choice.” There are clearly more complexities and cultural steps we as a society need to take in order to encourage a more fair and diverse workplace.

  • SteveB

    Oh and HARVARD says women drop out of science and engineering because of pressure and macho men? Seriously?!

    I bet 95%+ of women really are not interested in science and engineering…

    And guess what… That is okay, the world will not end…

  • Bill

    All the people that whine about “it’s not fair”, well shut up, put your nose to the grind and work extra hard. You’ll be rewarded.

    The ones that sit and whine about everything not being fair, are the ones that never get anywhere.

    BREAKING! News just in. Life is hard, so you have to work hard to get by…

  • Bill

    My favorite is about women that got a degree in engineering and then left that industry. News flash: Guess how many people graduate with a degree in Accounting and NEVER going into the accounting field. 75 plus percent!

  • Mike

    There is ZERO effort going on in ANY company not to hire women. They just are not in the work force. It is a choice of career, not the high-tech companies deciding they don’t want to hire women.

    These articles are stupid.

  • John Smith

    I don’t know what country you live in, but the women in the company I work for make the same money as me…

  • A. King

    >Can we do a gender bias report on the Marketing departments of big companies?
    >here is NO gender bias in Hi-Tech, it is a choice that you make in your career…

    Okay, so for Marketing departments it’s obviously gender bias, but for tech it’s about career choices? Gotcha.

    I love how all the people above saying that women either don’t work hard enough or don’t like tech enough to choose it as a career are men. Because you all definitely know what women think, I’m sure.

    Hey GeekWire, thanks for the comments section here. This article may be depressing, but the comments are just hilarious.

    • Company CEO

      Fact- when I’ve run ads for engineers I am lucky to get a single female response. Of those that I do get I almost never get a candidate that is even qualified enough to interview. It isn’t like our company isn’t trying; we make a concerted effort to diversify but I can’t really change who actually WANTS these jobs. Btw, I also virtually never see a “minority” candidate either i.e. Black or Hispanic. I do see a lot of Asian, Indian and Jewish candidates but as we all know, they are no longer minorities.
      I’m not discussing the causes for any of this; just simply stating why, at least in my company’s case, we have very few women engineers- they don’t apply and thus are not part of the hiring pool.

      • A different company CEO

        I Agree. I’ve run probably a thousand developer ads over 10 years and probably got 20 women to apply over that time. BUT, when I posted an Office Manager position, I had to turn that sucker off after an hour because I was overloaded with resumes…

        Agree with the above, you choose your career direction early…

      • Male

        Ads written by men for men. ;)

        • CEO

          AHAHAHA, it was written by my FEMALE recruiter! AHAHAHAHAHA

          • Male

            Still FOR men. Even female recruiters do it. But I can see you don’t get it. BTW I know many many CEO’s of really large companies, none would post like you. You have plenty to learn.

          • JobHunter

            So you are saying the female recruiters are writing bias job postings? Shame on them.

          • Male

            No, I have plenty of time on my hands. I’m bored, i’m going sailing now. bye.

          • Male

            You’re clearly a kid.

          • Mike

            When you feel you have lost, result to name calling…

  • Retail Buyer

    I was walking through Nordstrom corporate the other day, not the stores, but their corporate headquarters. And you know what? I saw 80% women there!!! I think we need a HARVARD survey of large corporate retailers and see what their gender biases are….

  • Starbucks Looker

    Hey, I was trying to pickup on a chick behind the starbucks counter the other day. After a lot of blah blah blah, she told me she had a MBA in Child Psychology and was pissed that this was the only job she could get.

    I agree with the above, you choose your career…

    • Male

      Master of Business Administration in Child Psychology? I bet you misconstrued this “chick” ‘s story entirely.

  • person

    How could anyone think that the IT industry is hostile to women? Just look at all the supportive comments here. I feel so welcomed and appreciated.

    • person 2

      Nothing hostile about it, they just stated the facts that women do not apply for these positions. Read the CEO posts above…

      You’re probably one of those whiners…

    • Company CEO

      I don’t think you understand. I would actually like to have a more diverse workplace, not because I think that there’d be a difference in the work but just because, frankly, it just makes things a little more interesting. Of course, I’m not willing to compromise the quality of the engineers we hire. That would compromise the entire company.
      So, to say it again, it would be great to have a more diverse workforce but unfortunately, I can’t even get the applicants and if you look at the college majors that people take, you’ll see why. It isn’t for a lack of trying on my part I can assure you.
      Lastly, if you want to talk about hostility, please put yourself in my shoes. 24/7 we have a media onslaught describing either overtly or directly, that there must be this huge amount of hostility and discrimination occurring or more women would be hired. It gets really, really old.

      • Male

        Hogwash! Start in your ads by strongly encouraging women to apply. Emphasize a women friendly environment. Then use criteria of quality that are equally fair to women as men. And then you will suddenly realize that women can outshine men in many ways … and your company’s culture will positively be affected, too. But I suspect you don’t really want that to happen – as long as you’re seeking “coding hotties” to work in a status quo environment.

        • CEO v2.0

          You’re a fool. So how would you start your ad to attract women to your developer positions? Ads are pretty much the same. This is the position, this is the requirements, here are the skills, here are the benefits. Please apply.

          Nearly everyone women that I hire was great! Would love to have a dozen more. But complaining to tech companies is not the answer.

          Get women to stop reading the entertainment trash, who said what, who is dating who, what should I wear, what are the Kardashions up to, etc. That is my mind is what frames what women are suppose to think about when it comes to a career…

          • Male

            Wow, you are SO full of bias, and you don’t even notice. So you can’t hire enough female engineers because they are basically all trailer trash? Then all men apparently only watch football and are burping drunks. Dude, I wouldn’t want to work in your company either. Your view of the world is sad. BTW, I’m a CEO, too.

          • CEO v2.0

            Well, I don’t hire the guys that drink and watch football all day either.

            No trailer trash comments above, that is your statement. What I said is when we form the minds early on who they should be, we lose them in the future.

            oh, that must be the Public Education System….

          • Male

            Exactly, so don’t hire the women that watch reality TV all day. Create an environment that appeals to intelligent, talented women. They will notice.

          • Male II

            Male- you’re ridiculous. I’m trying to hire the MOST QUALIFED CANDIDATE, regardless of gender. I would never run an ad to specifically hire a woman (thereby exhibiting prejudice towards other qualified candidates. Given how hard it is to find good candidates today, the LAST THING I want to do is potentially limit our candidate pool. This is especially true given the ratio of male/female graduates i.e. why would I target 18% of the engineering grads and the fact that companies such as Google are clawing all over themselves to hire these candidates.
            Get a grip, man, learn how companies and economies work before you post stupidness.

          • Male

            Your hostile tone tells me that you’re not a good CEO – if any at all. Please read my first comment to you correctly. If you change your culture, they WILL come. Ever asked yourself, WHY “Google are clawing all over themselves to hire these candidates”? Good luck.

          • Male

            Oops, didn’t notice that Male II is not CEO v2.0. Please ignore my comment about CEO then.

          • Female

            Google, Microsoft and others are clawing at these young folks out of college because they need brain wash them how they work… Plus, they can work them long hours for cheap.

            These are also the same companies that will drop your job in a heartbeat and offshore your tasks to India too.

            The guy above is spot on, you are just a person that has to work for others because that is all you can do…

          • Male

            You are not a CEO, or a really terrible one. Nothing but cliches in your entire post. How you conclude that I work for others is a mystery – or plain reading incomprehension.

          • Male

            You just changed your username from CEO to Female?! Classy.

          • Admin

            The pay scale is the same regardless of gender.

        • De Gueb

          I have worked on many installations projects in the leisure business for the last 15 years, on 3 occasions I have had to deal directly with female project managers. In all 3 occasions I have ended up getting shouted at on the phone, being blamed for errors that later I could easily prove were not my fault rather her fault. On the other 60 plus projects I have been involved in I have never experienced this behaviour. So don’t tell me that women are better just because they are woman it doesn’t make them fit for the job.

  • Joe McGrath

    If the department of education says that 18% of the computer science graduates are women, then aren’t these companies right around the diversity of the population of candidates of their particular field?

    • Dept of Education

      1st, the Department of Education is a dishonest organization.

      2nd, lots of people get a degree and take it to another field entirely.

      3rd, my wife was a great coder, but choose to be a full-time Mom.

      She made a decision and left the workforce. That will probably adjust your number accordingly.

      You can adjust numbers to be anything you want them to be…

      • Joe McGrath

        I guess is there a better source?
        Which numbers does it adjust? Does it reduce the percentage of women who are computer science grads and looking for work in that field? Is there a disproportionate amount of female computer science grads who get a job in another field versus male computer science grads who do the same thing?
        Guess it just seems to me looking at the output and just saying it is the problem isn’t very intelligent. Very much on board with what Ms. Sandler said, and think by the time my kid is in university, not being able to code is equivalent to being illiterate.

  • Department of Common Sense.

    Instead of blaming high technology companies for society issues. How about blaming the “Brainwashing” organization called the Department of Education?

    I know, let’s throw more money at it and buy everyone a computer. Oh, that didn’t work the computers are old and slow.

    I know, let’s throw more money at it and given everyone access to the internet. oh, that didn’t work, they browsed brainless entertainment web sites instead.

    I know, let’s throw more money at it and give everyone an iPad. Oh, that didn’t work, they kids are playing Candy Crush and play Kim Kardashion.

    I know, let’s blame the high tech companies for our issues….

    • I’m with Stupid

      agree: they would rather show sex ed videos, that we are killing the environment, tell you how bad america is and teach you how bad capitalism is rather than teach you math, reading and science…

  • Taylor Soper

    To address this gap, there are cool programs out there like App Camp 4 Girls. We just wrote about it today:

    • Person

      Will there be a camp like this to hire more males in to retail, HR, PR, and marketing? How about the 60/40 college grad rate between females and males? Odd and insulting that the entire problem seems to be not enough female engineers.

      • GamerPro

        The boys go to DigiPen to learn how to code games in the summer… Then they come out basically brain dead wanting to play video games the whole time.

  • Indiana

    Having employees is just really hard and expensive. The stuff you read above is why big companies like Google and Microsoft are off shoring jobs to India. They don’t have to deal with this over there and they can get back to write crappy apps to sell the world.

    There are millions in India that would gladly take your job for a 10th of the salary you get today.

  • NamSor Applied Onomastics

    Geeks, do you own gender gap research : use #opendata and data mining to measure the gap when and where it matters to you, at the finest granularity level. Example with Airline Pilots

  • Tracheal

    But no notice of the near total death gap which ‘favors’ the male sex er ‘gender’ in the military, in the workolace, and in the actuary tables. Gender bigots stool the media and men keep dying so feminists and their foolish male flunkies can do the lying. Good gig as long as you can keep it girls, but don’t plan on us buying your Big Lie forever.

  • balls187

    This is clearly a symptom of a much larger problem.

    Speculating wildly:

    1. Science and Tech jobs don’t appeal to women, possibly because there aren’t as many women to fulfill as role models. Also probably due to parents not pushing daughters into careers as in tech (p*m, engineering, etc).

    2. Tech is notoriously unwelcoming to women.

    a. Attractiveness seems to always come up
    b. Women are judged not only by their skills, but by how effective they can balance being a woman and not being overly a woman.

    c. Male-bonding culture that don’t effectively create welcoming environments for female employees.
    d. Having to “pick and choose” battles when dealing with sexual harassment, or risk being ostracized.

    3. General bias that exists against women in the workplace

  • margaretbartley

    I suggest you click on the link in the second-to-the-last paragraph above, which opens the .pdf to the Harvard Business School’s study of why women leave the tech sectors. After reading these comments, I think it would be useful to have some intelligent and educated discussion of this important issue.

    One thing that bothers me about the story is that just getting girls to build an app in a one-off situation doesn’t really address the core issue of a lack of a supportive environment.

    I think better would be an organization like the Scouts, that relies on local volunteers, with substantial resources behind it, to encourage all kids to be inquisitive and successful at new technology, kind of like the old science clubs and radios clubs of previous generations. Only have them consciously foster social environments that are inclusive, and avoid the “diving catch” and after-hours social scenes that are so destructive to women’s participation.

  • De Gueb

    What a load of BS, gender gap my A**!! I can also see a huge
    gender gap on construction sites, down the mines, or in the fishing industry. All
    you have to do is walk in to a Mall or retail park and 90% of the shops are for
    woman and even the ones that are men’s stuff are woman friendly because ultimately she is going to decide what you going to buy, be it your new 46” 3D flatscreen or the shirt for the wending next week. The first thing they tell a car sells man is to go with her choices not his. If she wants it, she will get it. So cut
    the cr** and get real. I was at an assisted reproduction clinic last week all
    the staff were female. Even when I had to “extract my sample” it was a woman
    who explained everything to me and waited in her office while I did the business.
    No gender sensitivity there my friends. In the supermarket round the corner 80%
    are girls but it’s the guys who do the heavy work. How many young Americans
    have been killed over the last 15 year in Afghanistan and Iraq? Maybe we should
    put more women on the front line, just to close the gender gap a bit, I don’t
    here the feminists complaining about that!!

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