Obstacles to Gender Equity in the Tech Sector: Organizational Culture and Workplace Practices
Strategy & Business Policy
Speaker: Heather Haveman
Professor at the University of California, Berkeley
Gender (in)equity at work has persisted despite decades of protest and regulation. The tech sector in particular has a long-standing gender problem, where women are under-represented among technologists and managers, especially in the top ranks. We study two factors that can create and maintain gender-based inequities: organizational cultures and related workplace practices. Organizational cultures can erect barriers to gender equity by framing ideal workers, activities, and goals as masculine, thereby raising questions about how well women fit into companies and whether they are competent in many jobs. Workplace norms and practices that reflect and reinforce such gendered cultures, such as expectations that employees will deal with work at all hours, have disproportionately negative effects on female employees because women do more domestic labor than men. We analyzed how employees describe their firms using data from an online portal, Glassdoor.com, to reveal how “gendered” are employee descriptions of their firms and how much employees praise or complain about norms and practices that affect work-life balance. To do so, we deployed natural-language processing techniques to parse employee descriptions. We found that many words denoting the male gender are actually semantically neutral, which indicates that tech-firm employees expect coworkers to be male. We also found that several things tech firms value are male-types. Surprisingly, we found generally positive sentiment about work-life balance. But there was substantial variation between and within tech-sector industries and locations.