Why Don’t Women In Tech Speak Up?

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Long-time tech reporter Laura Sydell shares her impression of why women in tech are reluctant to talk about the barriers they face.

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Women may be under represented in tech but they’re not vanishingly rare. Still, you hear even less from them than you’d expect given their small numbers, while the ability of women to alter the culture of tech to better suit their needs, at least so far, seems limited. So why don’t we hear the voices of female technologists more loudly or more often?

That’s the question Fast Company writer Lily Hay Newman but to NPR’s Laura Sydell, a long-time tech reporter who has spoken in-depth with many women in the industry. It’s a fascinating look at what women in tech say off the record that’s well worth a read in full. Here are a few key quotes:

  • "I have had some off the record conversations where people are like, ‘well I’m afraid to hire a woman if she’s around childbearing age because we can’t afford for somebody in a startup to take maternity leave.’ But nobody says, ‘I don’t want to hire a man of childbearing age.’"

  • "Unfortunately my take is that a lot of people who get into computers and programming start before college, which often does turn out to be young guys and so the women end up feeling intimidated."

  • "I remember people saying that for some reason guys are much more willing to work in the abstract for longer. I don’t know why this is, but women like to see pretty quickly that something they’re building is having an effect. It’s not that they can’t do the abstract, but once they see that programming can have this immediate effect they get more interested in it."

Check out the complete article and let us know what you think of Sydell’s impressions in the comments.

Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.