Will Tech Work for Mothers?

Feminism, Workplace

If you were not previously aware, there is a diversity problem in the tech field. In my workplace, this problem is beginning to be discussed by our leadership, but I don’t always find it constructive. At an organization meeting, the VP of my org said that they were looking at our diversity metrics and decided they need to focus their efforts on improving the diversity of their interview pool. I wanted to stand up and yell “That’s great and all– but how are you going to keep the diversity that is already here?”  Next time I won’t be a coward. What they need to understand is that this problem has two parts:

1. Attracting diversity

2. Preserving diversity

We can continue to focus on why diversity isn’t finding its way into tech. We can continue to focus on why diversity isn’t staying. What may be more interesting is learning why diversity stays in tech. Especially when we look at one of the top groups in tech to leave: Mothers.

I read an article today, “The women who ‘make it’ in tech”, which discusses research surrounding women with families and why they are still in the tech field. What they found sheds light onto why female mothers stay in the tech field.

16% indicated they have a spouse or partner in a similar or more lucrative career

84% indicated they are the breadwinner in their family

30% of breadwinners indicated that they have a stay-at-home spouse or partner

When these women talk about their careers, it isn’t with pride. The breadwinning mothers “talk about their earning power with obligation.”  Just looking at this research you could say that one of the largest contributing factor to mothers staying in tech is they need to support their family. The job itself isn’t enough to keep mothers who do not need the additional income to stay.

The article also mentions some institutionalized problems. How many times have I heard in design reviews that it needs to be “so simple your mother can use it.”  Not only is this condescending and sexist but it is “illustrative of how inhospitable industry’s work climate can be to motherhood.”  As a woman two years into her career in tech (without a family of my own), it makes me wonder how long my career in tech will last. It doesn’t look like the odds are ever in my favor.

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