This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture


Friday FTW: Girls hacking into the tech world

Catherine McIntyre

You know that friend who live-tweets about the Breaking Bad episode you still haven’t seen? The friend you’re considering purging from your life? Well now, thanks to Twivo, you don’t have to. The new software lets you dodge spoilers by temporarily blocking out names of shows and characters your “friends” Tweet about. Brilliant, right? No more frantic catch-up sessions as you cower from the Twitter feed.

Jennie Lamere is the brain behind Twivo. She’s 18-years-old and a girl. She developed the program for TVnext Hack—a national coding competition, or “hackathon” held in Boston last month. Lamere took first place among 80 hackers including grown, experienced businessmen in the T.V. and tech industries. She was the only person to develop a program solo and the only girl to compete.

The gaping gender discrepancy in tech jobs is pretty apparent. But is Lamere testament to a new trend that sees women at the fore?

A recent study that looked at jobs in the tech sector debunked the idea that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Instead it found payment was gender neutral.

Thing is, women still make less than men (on average $87,500 versus $95,900). But once you control for education and experience that difference disappears. People with the same skill levels—regardless of gender—earn the same kind of money.

But men and women don’t seem to hold the same kind of jobs. And the ones women fill happen to pay less than the ones men fill. A Forbes article reported on the study saying, “IT management, the fourth-most-common job held by men, pays an average of $123,000, higher than any of the other jobs men hold, and well more than the jobs held by women. For women, the fourth-most-popular job, quality assurance tester, pays just $71,000.”

The study also found women in the field have less education and experience than men.

So why the discrepancy?

Maybe it’s that women don’t want a part of the boys’-club culture surrounding tech jobs. Infiltrating male-dominated positions can be intimidating for a woman—or plain unappealing. Barbara MacDonald, co-founder of Willett Inc. told the Globe and Mail: “Women are inherently social, so they may view a tech start-up as being non-social – a bunch of guys in a basement sitting in front of a computer all day and all night eating day-old pizza.” Uh—no thanks!

In a survey released last month, Elance, an online job marketplace, asked 7,000 people why so few women hold tech jobs. Respondents agreed that lack of female role models was the biggest barrier.

And it’s true.

Only six of the top 100 tech companies in the States have female CEOs. And the 50 fastest growing tech jobs in Canada have just 14 females executives.

It’s a cyclical dilemma—women don’t pursue tech jobs because other women don’t hold tech positions. Fortunately, it’s a cycle that’s bound to break.

Organizations like Girls Who Code and CanWIT are giving women resources and support to enter and excel in tech jobs. And it’s not just important for women—it’s important for everyone. Blocking out perspective from 50 percent of the population limits ideas and collaboration—it stifles the creative process and potential for innovation.

I’m not saying science and tech jobs are the be-all, end-all to success in this world. As a woman, I’m no more proud of Sheryl Sandberg for presiding over Facebook than of Anne-Marie McIntyre for raising five thankless kids (love you, Mom!). Just so long as women have the right tools to take on whatever jobs they want.

What makes Jennie Lamere an exception—what let her dominate a room full of tech-savvy men—is that she had those tools. Her dad, a seasoned hacker, took her to her first hackathon three years ago and she’s been to five since. That’s an opportunity most girls, or any high schoolers, never get.

Now, thanks to ladies like Lamere, women are seeing they do in fact have a place in the technological sphere and will eventually shrink the gender gap. And as Rachel Sklar, co-founder of Change The Ratio said, “In the meantime, I am stoked to use Jennie’s invention to enjoy Mad Men at my own pace.”





Show Comments