“This was yet another discouraging signal to young women who aspire to study computer science,” Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, wrote in response to the controversial sexist memo leaked Monday from a Google employee.
Wojcicki also was a longtime employee of Google, and wrote that she too experienced some of the sexist attitudes in the tech industry.
“I’ve had my abilities and commitment to my job questioned. I’ve been left out of key industry events and social gatherings. I’ve had my comments frequently interrupted and my ideas ignored until they were rephrased by men,” she wrote.
At Google, only 20 percent of the tech jobs are filled by women. But Google is only one of many tech companies that has a gender disparity problem.
Many tech companies blame the “tech pipeline,” or the lack of women or minorities getting the education required to fill one of these positions. But this has been called a “cop out” by some diversity advocates. According to a report by the National Science Foundation, women received just over half of science and engineering bachelor's degrees in 2012, but they hold only 26 percent of computing jobs and 5 percent of leadership positions in the technology industry.
The controversy over the tech industry’s diversity problems continued when the leaked memo by a now-fired Google engineer claimed that women are “biologically” less suited to tech and leadership jobs than men.
The memo shows the potential scary and hostile environment that aspiring female tech students may enter into.
But in talking to young women who are currently studying software engineering or planning to enter the tech field, the memo only brings further awareness to a problem that many of them have faced already, even in their high school courses. And none of them say the memo will scare them away from the tech industry.
Here are some of the stories and opinions.
Nancy Xu, 19, president of Stanford Women in CS
When I read things like the memo, I actually feel more empowered than scared. I shared the memo with the Women in CS group as motivation to keep supporting minorities in tech. I hope the memo does not discourage other women from the tech industry because at the end of the day, we need more women.
Our CS department makes a good effort when it comes to addressing diversity and discrimination. That said, there is a lot more for all of us to do. I have close female friends who have gone through different uncomfortable and hindering situations as CS students. A lot of it has to do with unconscious bias and being the white elephant, or the only girl in a group of classmates who are all male. No one likes feeling left out, and no one should have to. But it’s hard when the CS department is only 30 percent female undergraduates.
Honestly, I am just really glad that we are talking about this issue. It’s unfortunate that a memo like this came out, but at the same time I’m glad that it’s getting so much attention.
Shreya Shankar, 19, computer science major at Stanford
I was more disappointed than angry. Disappointed that this is so pervasive in the industry that I so desperately want to belong in. At Stanford, I have already felt a bit of a preview of the sexism that is to come.
Here are some examples: At office hours, the room is filled with boys and the professor is male, making it incredibly intimidating to speak up as the only girl there. The hackathon culture, where people assume that since I’m a girl, I must be there as a recruiter for a company.
But as professors teach us the skills that are required in tech jobs, a discussion of the sexism that exists in the industry never comes up.
That’s why I’m trying to get more people to talk about it by sharing my story and creating the hashtag #ImAFemaleStudent on Twitter. I’ve even started a Google drive with some stories other female tech students have shared with me.
One story of sexism that really stuck with me was from a college CS student like myself. She messaged me about a CS course she took back in high school where the male teacher suggested that they use the face of a porn star as a test image. I was disgusted.
Mary Burke, 21, rising senior at Georgetown University majoring in computer science and minoring in math and Spanish
The Google memo writer’s claim that women overall are neurotic and anxious is frustrating to read no matter one's industry.
I found that the author would contradict himself repeatedly throughout the memo. After stating what he believed to be biologically caused differences between men and women, he then validates that a gender gap does not imply sexism and that the tech industry should be male-dominated. However, he later acknowledges the importance of the diversity of viewpoints.
In school, I have found it useful to employ the assertiveness the author believes females lack when working in groups. That being said, I also believe there is a case to be made for feminine openness and agreeability in collaboration, which the author seems to view as negative character traits.
Emily Koehne, 17, rising high school senior planning on a STEM-related career and blogger about all things STEM
When I first read the leaked Google memo, I felt frustrated and confused as to how so many people can still have these discriminatory views of women in STEM in 2017.
I have already heard many stories of discrimination and experienced it myself. Since I also like makeup and fashion, many people have called me dumb and told me that I am not smart enough go into STEM.
I have already braced myself for the sexism I will inevitably experience. Yes, I am concerned that I will not be given the same opportunities because I am a woman, but I know I have the confidence and courage to speak up to misogynists and fight for equal pay and equal opportunity for leadership positions.
This memo demonstrated to me that there is a need for myself and others to continue our activism to increase the number of women in STEM.