When it comes to gender diversity- technology and social work- are polar opposite. While one is dominated by male and unwelcoming for women, the latter is female dominated as it is considered be a ‘woman’s job’.
Here is how different they are when it comes to gender:
Gender diversity means an equal ration between man and woman in any field, sector or organization. Gender diversity ensures that different perspective are taken into account while decision making or planning, thus not being biased to just one gender. However, that’s not the case in many sectors which are either completely male-oriented (like technology) or female-oriented (like social work).
For instance, a whopping 82% of social workers are women, which makes it a less attractive option for men. Lack of economic returns in the field and social stigma attached to the profession making it a more ‘pink collar job’ are the 2 main factors deterring men from actively participating in social work.
What about the male-dominated Silicon Valley? It’s no secret that the Silicon Valley employs more men than female for technology, computer science, coding etc. Less than 20% senior positions are held by women at tech companies, while many women are seen occupying non-tech role like human resource, legal and finance. As per a survey by the Silicon Valley bank, more than half the mushrooming tech startups (66%) had no woman on their board.
But what’s the reason behind this wide gender gap in the 2 sectors? Read on…
The issue of the vast gender gap can be rooted back to old times when we as children were always told to choose a certain path based on whether you were a girl or boy. So accordingly, math and science were ideal for men while arts and humanities were ideal for girls.
It is highly likely that as a kid, you received a Barbie doll as a gift on your birthday of you were a girl and if you were a boy- racing car. Likewise, when you grow up, there are more changes of women using a food processor while man using a screwdriver. These subliminal messages throughout your life do contribute to the current gender gap.
Historically, men have always been discouraged to express extreme emotions or feelings. Which in a way, discourages to choose a path which requires a human touch or caring (social work in this case). At the same time, they are encouraged into taking up engineering, computer science, coding- subjects which are ‘ideal’ for them and not woman. One of the reasons why there are so few men in social work as per experts is that they lack the emotional stability for it. Further, many consider it as too feminine and not manly enough to take up ‘caring roles’.
What’s the problem with this gender gap you ask? Well, these sectors drastically lack the perspective of the under-represented gender, which can be worrisome.
In the social work sector, a vulnerable boy would be more comfortable speaking with a male social worker than a female social worker. A majority of female in this sector might deter male from discussing their mental health issues especially when related to sex, domestic abuse and aggression. More male in social work can bring in a fresh and different perspective as well. Same is the case for technology.
Men in the tech industry land up building tech for men, which lacks the needs and perspective of a woman. A study published in Journal of the American Medical Association clearly reflects how lack of female’s perspective in the technology clearly means ignoring their needs. The researchers discovered that when the virtual assistants like Siri, Google Now, S Voice etc were mentioned the word ‘suicide’ it was likely that they popped the screen with suicide hotline numbers. But, when countered with phrases like ‘I’ve be raped or sexually assaulted’, the device responded saying ‘I don’t know what that is’. Irony- all these assistant were almost always female voice. Our takeaway to this is men have always been the instruction givers while females instruction receiver.
Similarly, in the field of video games, a research found that 50 most popular video games 98% offered boy characters, while only 46% offered girl character. Even worst was that majority of the boy characters were free, while the girl ones where charged. (this does mean boys are preferred more than girls, as for free only boy options are available)
Both tech and social work had a significant participation of women and man respectively in the early 80s. But things soon changed. Which is the reason behind this gender gap we see today.
In fact, most of the computing pioneers who programmed the first digital computers were women. When computer science was introduced in the 1960s the gender mix was equal. But the year 1984 changes it all and the number of woman in the field of computer science kept on plunging. The entry of personal computers changed. As these early computers didn’t have much to do in it, they were sold as toys for boys as machines to play game on. Thus boys got familiarized with these machines much faster than girls, who did not even have access to them. Thus, while guys in the computer classes knew most of the programming, girls were lagging behind. Thus, discouraging and deterring them from the field.
Same is the case with social work with more men at least 50% of men graduating with masters in Psychology during the 1970s. However, not the numbers have dropped to 20%. This drop could be attributed to the lower in salaries for the therapists during the 90s, which demotivated many to leave the profession.