Monday, September 9, 2013

Misogyny in Tech Part I: the Numbers Game

EDITS:
-Corrected the idiotic 44/66 thing.
-Added some more figures that should have been in the original post (from comments section). Appended at the very end.
-IMPORTANT EDIT: 44% of the workforce between the ages of 16 and 30 are female. For the 16 and over workforce, the correct figure in 2012 was 46%. I've corrected the post to show 46%.

If you live in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco, you can't help getting sucked into the tech community and all its bullshit. I've berated them before, and I'll no doubt do it again and again, but today I want to get into what seems to be viewed by most people as the "big issue" in tech: the low ratio of women to men, and, more broadly, the supposedly rampant misogyny that's to blame. This will be covered over a series of posts as there are a great many fallacious arguments and outright lies to tear apart.

Are there enough vaginas in this house? Informal survey of 20-something male employees says "No!"

Let's start with my favorite part: the numbers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics[1], 26% of people employed in "Computer and Mathematical Occupations" during 2012 were women. This category includes a lot of jobs that wouldn't be considered "tech," but the 1:3 female/male ratio give or take is pretty consistent across the subcategories. But this ignores big chunks of the tech community: marketers, office administrators, lawyers, journalists, etc. Product promoters are far more likely to be female, as are office and administrative support professionals.  Professional writers, even technical writers, are mostly women. Reliable sources that separate out all members of the tech community by gender simply don't exist, but the available data suggests that 25% is a low-end estimate.

So the first question has to be: is this a scary number? Is 25% (remember: low-end estimate here) cause for concern? This is a question that can only be answered in comparison to some idea of "the norm." Consider "Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations": a mere 3.9% women according to the same source. Gosh, we'd better get more women into coal mining and farming right away! Oh, and look: men are only 28% of "Office and administrative support occupations." Better fix that inequity by making secretarial work more male-friendly, right? And wow, men are only 27% of our "Education, training, and library occupations" and a mere 19% of elementary and middle school teachers. That can't possibly be good for equality between the sexes, handing over the education of all our children to one sex, can it?

Oh, and you might want to consider this little fact: women make up only 46% of the workforce. That means that "equality" in tech would be 46% women and 54% men, not 50% and 50%. It also exacerbates the disparity between men and women in the female-dominated professions.

By any reasonable standard, the 25% number is not a problem. The only reason any of us think of it as a problem is that tech jobs are glamorous. We see a few people making a shit-ton of money in tech, and the immediate response from women is "Hey, why don't I get a piece of that?" No one is banging a gong trying to get women into animal husbandry or oil rig work, despite the grosser gender gaps in those professions. Women just want the good stuff, and for some reason we're all eager to give it to them, whether they deserve it or not.

But that's a topic for another post.

Until next time,

S. Misanthrope

Next time, on Strategic Misanthropy:
We know women eschew tech in favor of other professions, and conventional wisdom says misogynist attitudes in tech are at least partly responsible. If so, examples of such misogyny should be easy to find. Join me next week on a magical safari to track, capture, and dissect the mythical misogynist beasts of tech!

[1] You can reproduce all of these figures from here: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.pdf
Don't you fucking dare come back at me with a link to a HuffPo article. Primary sources or bust, bitches.

Addendums:
Are women leaving tech?
Let's talk about a few more numbers, shall we? A lot of newspaper articles have claimed that tech is losing women, at least proportionally. This is somewhat true. Here are the % of men employed in "Computer and Mathematical Occupations" from 2002 to 2012:
2002 - 71%
2003 - 71%
2004 - 73%
2005 - 73%
2006 - 73%
2007 - 74%
2008 - 75%
2009 - 75%
2010 - 74%
2011 - 75%
2012 - 74%

Again, we can't equate this to "people employed in tech," but let's be generous and do so anyway. That means we've seen a 3% proportional decrease in women in tech over the past decade-plus. Not exactly something to stop the presses about, in my opinion, given that fluctuations are to be expected, particularly in a volatile industry like tech. The trend also appears to have leveled off if not reversed recently.

More importantly, however, this proportional change gets twisted into the claim that women are leaving tech. That is outright false in every way. The number of women in (our proxy for) tech *increased 10%* from 2002 to 2012. Over those same 11 years, the number of women in the workforce increased only 5%. This means that not only are more women being drawn to tech, they are being drawn at a faster rate than they were 11 years ago.

No one is being driven away. All we're seeing is two groups, both being drawn in and both being drawn in more intensely than in the past, with one group being drawn in a bit more strongly than the other.

Education vs Employment
I really should have addressed another question in the article: is there parity between the percentage of women majoring in computer science/IT in undergrad and the percentage of women in tech. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduating college students in 2008 who majored in comp sci/IT were 24.5% female. That's even lower than the raw estimate of 26% employed in tech (which is actually the % employed in computer and math occupations, remember, expected to be *lower* than the number in tech.)

So if anything the tech industry is *increasing* the number of women getting into computers between undergrad and employment.

Suck it.

6 comments:

  1. 44% women and 66% men = 110%

    ReplyDelete
  2. Let's talk about a few more numbers, shall we? A lot of newspaper articles have claimed that tech is losing women, at least proportionally. This is somewhat true. Here are the % of men employed in "Computer and Mathematical Occupations" from 2002 to 2012:
    2002 - 71%
    2003 - 71%
    2004 - 73%
    2005 - 73%
    2006 - 73%
    2007 - 74%
    2008 - 75%
    2009 - 75%
    2010 - 74%
    2011 - 75%
    2012 - 74%

    Again, we can't equate this to "people employed in tech," but let's be generous and do so anyway. That means we've seen a 3% proportional decrease in women in tech over the past decade-plus. Not exactly something to stop the presses about, in my opinion, given that fluctuations are to be expected, particularly in a volatile industry like tech. The trend also appears to have leveled off if not reversed recently.

    More importantly, however, this proportional change gets twisted into the claim that women are leaving tech. That is outright false in every way. The number of women in (our proxy for) tech *increased 10%* from 2002 to 2012. Over those same 11 years, the number of women in the workforce increased only 5%. This means that not only are more women being drawn to tech, they are being drawn at a faster rate than they were 11 years ago.

    No one is being driven away. All we're seeing is two groups, both being drawn in and both being drawn in more intensely than in the past, with one group being drawn in a bit more strongly than the other.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really should have addressed another question in the article: is there parity between the percentage of women majoring in computer science/IT in undergrad and the percentage of women in tech. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, graduating college students in 2008 who majored in comp sci/IT were 24.5% female. That's even lower than the raw estimate of 26% employed in tech (which is actually the % employed in computer and math occupations, remember, expected to be *lower* than the number in tech.)

    So if anything the tech industry is *increasing* the number of women getting into computers between undergrad and employment.

    Suck it.

    ReplyDelete