Loner Magazine - FEMMEXODUS: Silicon Valley

FEMMEXODUS: Silicon Valley

By Tony Abraham

Women of Silicon Valley-–you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. There are warning signs, but they’ve been smothered and repressed by the same tech giants who tell you they’re gung ho for addressing and remedying the issue. Ultimately, they feel too threatened by you to take their alleged “advocacy” and turn it into action. But there’s a viable solution, and though you may not want to hear it from a man, it needs to be said.

This is a call to arms–-a call for a Femmexodus out of Silicon Valley.

It’s 2015 and we’re still trying to figure out why a “gender pay gap” exists. It’s crooked and utterly antiquated. It’s a reflection of a corrupted culture–one fostered by a handful of powerful men who take pleasure in broadcasting their eroded ethics. Most pressingly, the gender pay gap casts a horrendously twisted shadow over female accomplishments.

According to data accumulated by the personal finance site SmartAsset, if you are a woman working a tech job in San Jose, your paychecks are 13.9% less than what your male counterpart is receiving. Well, unless you’re a female engineer employed by Google. If that’s the case, you’re making approximately 20% less than your male counterparts.

A better work environment exists on the East Coast. In Philadelphia, for example, women in tech are paid 4.9% less than their male counterparts and make up nearly a third of the workforce. It’s still a gap, but it’s the smallest gender pay gap in the country. Conversely, there are some cities where the gender pay gap doesn’t exist at all.  For instance, public employers in DC all must comply with federal policy–namely, Equal Employment Opportunity laws.  Private employers should have to comply with these laws as well, but gaping loopholes make exploitation entirely too easy (hence the existence of a gender pay gap in the first place). Government employers, for the most part, are not able to take advantage of those loopholes. DC has become a civic tech giant-–the municipality itself is quite possibly the largest tech employer in the city. For this reason, DC leads the country in employing women in tech, with 37% of the workforce being female.

Of course, you could always move to Kansas City, where the gender pay gap is reversed–women are paid 106.6% wage compared to their male counterparts.

But wait, let me put that bitter taste back in your mouth.

What would a city’s tech industry be without its investors? Angels and investment groups are highly representative of a region’s worth. Thus, the root of the problem for Silicon Valley. All you have to do is look to its investors to figure out the region is now way behind the times.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, an angel is an investor who funds startups at their seed stages, and occasionally existing startups going through a rough patch. They usually “save the day”–hence the term “angel.” These West Coast angels pride themselves on pursuing risky ventures, fancying themselves “risk-takers.”  Why then does the Silicon Valley community of angels and institutions invest a mere 5-10% venture capital in females?

“Risk-takers,” hmmm? It would seem they view investing in women to be entirely too risky. If investment groups are representative of a business community–and they are–what does that say about Silicon Valley? Do you feel safe giving up part of your business to bigoted irrationality?

The behemoths that once made Silicon Valley a reputable tech hub are only making matters worse. These companies are apparently jumping, grappling and bounding at the opportunity to hire women, allegedly implementing programs to boost the acquisition of female employees. Looking at the numbers, it’s quite possible this is all just a charade; the heavy-handed puppeteering of a few shifty PR firms. Appease the masses, sell more product–-and subsequently give the impression that you’re remedying a cultural dilemma. What moral high ground these companies stand on!

According to statistics released in February of this year, no city in the United States harbors a female tech workforce larger than 37%. Worst is of course the West Coast, slipping and maintaining that trend. For example, 2014 witnessed female technical workforces of 10% at Twitter, 15% at Facebook, 17% at Google and 21% at Pinterest, a site whose consumer base is dominated by women. Meanwhile, only 23% of Yahoo!’s leadership positions are held by women-–even with powerhouse CEO Marissa Mayer at the reins.

Aye, there’s the rub. If these tech giants are apparently so thrilled to hire women, where are they? This 2014 Harvard Business Review study concluded a generally hostile male culture that isolates women is one of the most popular reasons why, as the LA Times put it, women are leaving the tech industry in “droves.”

The time is past due for a Femmexodus out of Silicon Valley and into the Northeast. New York City, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Boston–these are all cities on the forefront of the movement. Not only are they pioneering tech, but they’re trailblazing on the frontier of women’s rights. Go East, where the divide is narrowing–-and quickly.

Tony Abraham is a Philadelphia-based writer interested in civic tech, social entrepreneurship and city subcultures. One of these days, he will learn how to deliver a timely pun. Until that day comes, Tony will continue to be the only one laughing.

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