December 13, 2013


Look at any prediction of which sectors of the economy are growing the fastest, and no doubt tech will be at the top of the list. But there’s a big problem: there’s almost no women there.  In 2012, for example, only 10-13% of the country’s computer science and computer engineering degrees went to women, and the top rungs of the most successful companies in this new economy are almost all occupied by men.

Debora Spar, president of Barnard College and author of “Wonder Women,” says this is a reason to be worried – really worried. “It more than concerns me,” she says, “it terrifies me.”

But the absence of women in the tech industry isn't an isolated issue: in fact, it's a problem you'll find almost everywhere. Why?  Spar says, when it comes to women in the workplace, we’re entering a “third generation.” Women today are able to get the prestigious degrees that were denied their mothers and grandmothers, but are still expected to do must of the juggling between work and family.

“I don’t even think we even know how Bill Gates is as a father, because we never ask that question,” says Spar. But watch any interview with Marissa Mayer or Sheryl Sandberg, and you’ll probably hear the question come up.

The solution? A lot of it is an adjustment of expectations to meet reality, says Spar. “We have to change the paradigm so that women are focusing on whatever their passion, concentration, focus is, and not feeling they have to be the CEO or COO of a corporation, and be a perfect mother, and be a perfect wife, and be a perfect housewife.”

To make that possible, Spar says a number of things need to change. Work environments need to be more flexible, and schools also need to take into account that both parents will often be shouldering a full schedule. Perhaps most importantly, men needed to be included in the conversation, so that working women aren’t left juggling alone. 

careers, Sci and Tech, Culture, women, gender

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