Women tech leaders ask tech companies: Show us your diversity numbers

Women tech leaders ask tech companies: Show us your diversity numbers

A torrential downpour Friday morning didn’t stop nearly 600 women from attending the Colorado Technology Association’s Women in Technology Conference, held outdoors under a massive tent at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.

Stepping in marshy puddles and having water slosh around in their shoes were, clearly, the last things on their minds.

Rather, the continued disparity of women in computer and technology piqued attendees’ interest during a lunchtime panel session with Lucy Sanders, executive director of the Boulder-based National Center for Women & Information Technology.

She shared some statistics: High school girls comprise about 19 percent of the Advanced Placement computer-science classes, from about 13 percent when Sanders’ organization was founded in 2004. Female computer-science college students have similarly grown to as high as 19 percent, from 13 percent.

“What we mean is that it is improving,” said fellow panelist Avis Yates-Rivers, CEO of Technology Concepts Group International in New Jersey. “But it is not where we need to be. But it is at least ticking up, and so we believe we are moving the national needle.”

But it’s the corporate workplace — where most of the conference participants work — that has lagged, Sanders said.

“The corporate space is the slowest space to move, despite everything you hear about the educational space being slow,” said Sanders, who is pushing for more companies to release diversity data to show what women do at technology companies. “It’s so important because we think we know what the numbers are. We have companies tell us their numbers in secret, but we can’t tell what the women are doing. We don’t know if you all are inventing the technology of the future or are involved in created designs. And the sad part is they don’t know either.”

She pointed to the Rainbow Push Coalition, founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and its push to get Silicon Valley companies to address their lack of diversity.

Various tech companies have released data on the breakdown of their workforce, including how many women are in technology jobs.

Another site, OpenDiversityData.org, has a list of top tech companies that collect diversity data and should be thanked for sharing it — or nudged to share it. Boulder-based SendGrid has said that 9 percent of its technical employees are female.

According to a roundup by Fortune, the three companies with more women in technical jobs were Indiegogo at 33 percent, eBay at 24 percent and Pinterest at 21 percent.

Leaders at Google and Apple, which are lower on the list, pledged to do better.

Sharing that data is important, Sanders said.

“It would help the whole country, the world make strides in understanding the current state of corporate technical women,” she said.