There’s a disparity of women in tech-related fields and it has only gotten worse. While women make up nearly half of the workforce (47 percent), the percentage of females pursuing careers in technical fields has dipped with time. Here are just a few stats to show the scope of this underrepresentation:

  • Only 12% of engineers and 26% of computing professionals are females (Source)
  • 70% of startups have no women on a board of directors and more than half (54%) have no female leaders in executive positions (Source)
  • Less than 5% of companies who get VC funding are led by women (Source)
  • Since the 1980s, Computer Science degrees earned by women has decreased from 37% to 18% (Source)

Women have just as much aptitude as men to work in and make major contributions in fields like mathematics, computing, and science. So why are there so few women in a field that holds such promise and great possibilities for the future?

Let’s dig down to the root of it. This International Women’s Day, the motto is #BeBoldForChange, a call to help forge a better working world for females and gender equality in the workspace. In honor of today, let’s take a look at why the number of women in tech is so low and what can be done to drive up diversity in the tech workspace.

It starts from a young age

According to Dr. David Cornelison of Missouri State University, “if you look at all the problems that could be propagated, it turns out most of the problems start at a very young age.”

Studies show that children’s perceptions of their own abilities and who might be good at a particular task can already start gender disparities early on. This “boys are better at math” thinking drives girls away from the field before even considering it. Dr. Cornelison calls this an “inhibition or unwillingness to consider the technical fields as a possible career choice.”

By middle school or high school, a girl’s interest in technology will peak, which brings us to the next point.

Are academic courses too intimidating and uninteresting?

It’s likely to be one of the problems, starting with the initial course.

In an attempt to retain women in tech, Melinda Gates has been working to help change introductory Computer Science classes so that they’re more welcoming and interesting to females.

Her findings have found that women tend to enter Computer Science with less experience and confidence than men. While abstract math is commonly taught in these courses, women tend to prefer real-world problems.

This only shows the importance of fostering an early interest in these fields and removing any negative barriers from the start.

Mentorship is key

According to a recent survey, the top barrier experienced by women in technology is a lack of mentors.

Source: The Future Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers

Mentorship programs like Girls Who Code are important as they can help girls develop interest and skill sets in tech from an early age.

Other Barriers

Aside from the already mentioned, other issues that could be driving women away from tech fields include unsupportive work environments, unequal pay, and a lack of work-life balance.

When an organization is not committed to hiring and advancing a female in tech, this leads to this underrepresentation.

Why Gender Diversity Matters in the Workspace

When there’s diversity in a company, the business outcomes are enhanced. In one study, researchers found that having women in leadership positions aligned with an average 15 percent increase in profitability.

Other studies have shown that a team with an equal male to female ratio is more likely to experiment, be creative, share knowledge, and fulfill tasks than teams of an unbalanced composition.

It has also been shown that the most successful tech startups have twice as many women in senior tech positions as unsuccessful companies.

This importance of gender diversity should be taught to tech leaders. Diversity drives competitive strength, enhanced capacity of innovation, and products that reflect the consumer-base.

Diversity Attracts Diversity

According to WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner, “diversity attracts diversity. People are more likely to join an organization where they can be their authentic self and find people with shared values and opportunities that will challenge them.”

Working in tech here at WP Engine, women comprise 30 percent of the company’s non-executive management leadership roles and 65 percent of its senior executive management roles. Diversity is part of what makes WP Engine so special.

“Companies must be intentional about diversity. Balance doesn’t just happen; you have to create an environment where differences are valued and encouraged,” said Brunner.