It’s no secret: The software industry is a men’s club. In fact, the technology sector as a whole is still largely dominated by men. But a recent report from the American Association of University Women showed that the technology sector is one of the few places in which women earn equal pay to their male counterparts.
In fact, only traditional engineering jobs showed a higher rate of pay equality than math and computer science disciplines. This could be seen as at least a small win for female developers in a world that seems to increasingly yield ugly and publicly blogged/Twittered incidents of sexism.
(Related: Where are the women in software?)
So while misogyny is still an industry problem, there’s no doubt that things have definitely gotten better for women in technology over the last 10 years. Or even the last four.
Evonne Heyning, cofounder of EDDEFY, said that she’s noticed a change in recent years, even if it’s not a complete shift across the board. She referred to “the rising tide of women, not just in engineering and coding, but across technology, such as in wearables. When I was growing up, I didn’t have women to look up to or talk to in technology. I never met female programmers until I went to college, but I started programming when I was six. We’re not seeing the full tide rise now, but it’s changing. When I go to hackathons, it’s definitely different than it was four years ago. In general, hackathons can be very cliqueish, but I see more women now.”
Heyning and EDDEFY’s four other female cofounders are building an education aggregation and presentation system, and have built their company as a flat management structure with no single leader. She said she and her cofounders have hired male developers, as well.
While Heyning has noticed a change in recent years, Brenda Romero has an even longer perspective. She’s been in the software industry since she worked on the game Wizardry in 1981.
“I can only speak to the game industry,” said Romero, “but I do feel [online awareness] movements like #1reasonwhy and #1reasontobe, as well as the visibility conferences like Game Developers Conference, provide, not to just women but minorities in general, help to make others feel comfortable speaking out and not comfortable remaining silent, even if they are not the victims of discrimination.”
Romero referred to a popular set of Twitter campaigns for women in the videogame industry. The #1reasonwhy tweets (as in the one reason why there aren’t more women making games) highlighted both the perks and hazards of being a woman in the video game industry. That campaign resulted in thousands of tweets covering subjects ranging from sexist managers to the benefits of having a little-used women’s room due to the dearth of women in game companies.
Romero said that she feels her industry has improved a great deal in how it handles sexism and racism, but now she’s worried about a subtler form of racism. She said she’s more concerned about the digital divide creating a rift between technology haves and have nots, particularly in immigrant communities.
Romero’s husband, John Romero, is the famous game designer behind Doom. He’s also a Mexican American, and as a result, he has seen the divide that exists between the students of well-to-do folks and the children of migrant workers.
“I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done,” said Brenda Romero. “There are a lot of people who are not in the games industry who would love to be in the industry, and if they don’t have access to the technology early on, they’ve already lost. It’s not just a question of making this a good industry. We need to make it a good industry, but we need to show people the path to get in here who might otherwise not have chance.”