Women Abandon Tech Careers at an Alarming Rate

Something is forcing women out faster than men.

Do women in Silicon Valley experience bias in the workplace in 2017? If so, how? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

As a whole, women in tech in the U.S. continue to experience bias, enough so that they leave the tech field at a 45% higher rate than men [1]. In one survey only 27% cited family as a primary reason for leaving tech [2]. So something is forcing women out faster than men, and if it’s not biology, it’s bias. Silicon Valley probably leads the U.S. in reducing bias against tech women, but that’s a low bar to be passing.

These are a few reasons women have cited for leaving tech:

* The U.S. workplace in general is more biased against women than most developed nations and many developing nations. Tech is not immune, and Silicon Valley is not exceptional.

* Unconscious bias pushes the numbers down: women usually get paid less, get crappier work, and are judged negatively for behavior and traits that are looked at positively for men [3].

* There’s also conscious bias and culture, such as “brogrammer culture”.

* Short maternity leave and lack of paid leave is often the trigger for leaving, compounding pay issues. As every parent will tell you, you don’t sleep and can’t think with a newborn.

* Despite being amenable to flexible working conditions and schedules, tech has been relatively slow to innovate. Google and Facebook did quite a bit to push progress, and now several leading tech companies offer at least several months of paid leave and more flexible working conditions to both men and women [4]. In general, hours matter less than results, and the bottom line was affected positively. However, many other companies still lag.

I’d say things are better for women in Silicon Valley than before, but “better” is not “good,” and “good” is not “equal”.

One positive to the steadily decreasing number of science and engineering graduates in the U.S. [5] is that foreign graduates will be needed to fill the gap, and many of them, especially those from Europe, will push for maternity conditions similar to their home countries. However, we will likely be seeing at least a short term reduction in immigration due to the current political environment. There is a possibility that the period of reduced immigration may be long enough for Silicon Valley to lose relevance, but I have no clue about the probability.


[1] Center for Talent Innovation

[2] Why Women Leave - Anita Borg Institute

[3] If you think women in tech is just a pipeline problem, you haven’t been paying attention – Tech Diversity Files

[4] Closing the Tech Industry Gender Gap

[5] Why Women Leave Science

This question originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

* MBA Degrees: How has your MBA helped you? Did it lend you additional credibility or other advantages?

* Motivation: How do you keep yourself motivated?

* Life Advice: What would you tell your younger self when you were just starting out?