A Progress Report on Silicon Valley's Gender Problem
When entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa first wrote an article in 2010 censuring Silicon Valley for its gender problem--specifically its lack of women problem--he wasn't expecting the hostile response he'd get.
"I was just absolutely shocked at the crude, childish behavior of the boys' club. Frankly, this wasn't just a bunch of immature children, this was a "Who's Who," Wadhwa said on a recent podcast on Knowledge@Wharton.
That was in 2010. Since then, the gender ratio has yet to make any significant progress toward balancing out. For example, in July, Twitter revealed that only 10 percent of its programming positions and other technology jobs are held by women worldwide.
Yet, there's a small, but noticeable bright side. Wadhwa said that in recent years, the Valley has started to acknowledge the issue, and some companies have taken constructive steps toward improvement.
And it's about time. Especially because Wadhwa said he finds it difficult to see why a gender imbalance exists in the entrepreneurial world anyway. Wadhwa told Knowledge@Wharton that there is "literally no difference" between female and male entrepreneurs, according to his past research.
"Just like men, women started companies because they wanted to build wealth, capitalize on business ideas they had, liked the startup company culture, and were tired of working for others and wanted to be their own boss," Wadhwa wrote in the 2010 TechCrunch article. So why were women so absent from this scene?
In an attempt to find the root of the problem, and he asked tech companies for their help.
"One of the battles that I had to also fight was to get companies to disclose their gender data, to basically tell us how many women they have," Wadhwa said. "And they wouldn’t do it. They said it was a trade secret."
But this is where progress has now been made. Starting with Google, and followed by Apple and Twitter, companies have recently released diversity reports. In the process, they've humbly admitted that there's work to be done. And that's a start.
"They are saying, 'Look, we know these numbers are not impressive, we know we have a problem and we pledge to fix it,'" Wadhwa said. "So, this is the process that's happening right now and it will lead to a lot of good."