It is an unfortunate fact of life in much of Silicon Valley: women are fighting barriers to entry in a male-dominated field. Even as women make significant headway in a diverse range of fields from law to medicine, the New York Times observed the doors to the technology field “remain virtually closed to women.” At many tech companies in Silicon Valley and nationwide, only a tiny fraction of the technical staff — 2% to 4% in some cases — are women.
While the tech industry is “famous for its bravado about changing the world,” the Los Angeles Times commented in an article on sexism in Silicon Valley, it “still lags decades behind other industries in its treatment of women, many of whom say they routinely confront sexism in the companies where they work and at the technology conferences they attend.”
A Sexist Engineering Culture That Perpetuates Gender Stereotypes
Sexism is a major problem in the sciences, from our universities to companies at the forefront of today’s innovation economy.
“Despite the tremendous success of a few women in tech, the sad truth is that it is an industry plagued by gender stereotyping and bias.”
—Kelly M. Dermody
In a study published in 2012, Yale researchers found that science professors at American universities widely regard female undergraduates as less competent than male students with the same accomplishments and skills. These professors were less likely to offer the women mentoring or a job. And those women offered a position received a lower salary than their male counterparts.
Other studies have also found that female scientists have lower salaries, smaller lab spaces, and less access to mentors and professional networks than their male counterparts, which puts them at a disadvantage in the race for grants, publication, patents, tenure, and promotions. As noted by MIT researchers, “the result is a system that all but forces women out of science careers.”
This backdrop fosters negative stereotypes about the abilities of women in technical careers and stymies their career opportunities in technical companies, and leads to the high attrition rate of women in tech.
In 2008, the Harvard Business Review published a landmark report on women in tech entitled “The Athena Factor.” As their male colleagues’ careers were advancing, women’s start to stall, and many become “marginalized by hostile macho cultures.” After 10 years of work experience, the researchers reported that 41% of women in tech leave the tech industry, compared with just 17% of men.
Women Excluded from Technology Company Senior Leadership and Boards of Directors
The striking absence of women extends to the executive ranks and board rooms of many tech companies. Nearly half of all publicly traded information technology businesses have no women on their boards, compared with 36 percent of the 2,770 largest public companies in the country, the New York Times reported.
Kelly M. Dermody, the chair of Lieff Cabraser’s employment practice group and an attorney repeatedly recognized for her success in changing discriminatory corporate practices through the representation of women in gender discrimination lawsuits, stated, “Despite the tremendous success of a few women in tech, the sad truth is that it is an industry plagued by gender stereotyping and bias.”
Dermody added, “It may be a relatively new and undeniably innovative sector, but it has remained remarkably traditional in terms of maintaining an old-style gender glass ceiling and in underpaying women.”
Lieff Cabraser Attorneys Working to Ensure Equal Opportunity in the Workplace
Successfully Challenging Gender Discrimination
Lieff Cabraser’s nationally-recognized employment lawyers work hand in hand with courageous women who step forward to press their companies to comply with the law and ensure equal opportunity for their female colleagues.
Our goal is not only to recover financial compensation for the losses our clients suffer but also to require that the companies that have employed our clients change their unfair business practices and provide greater career opportunities for women going forward.