6 min read

The cost of sexism

Mariano Stampella

Senior Business Development Manager

Whenever we discriminate, we are worsening the economic indicators of a human team. Companies, communities, countries and industries are harmed. When turning someone down, we are missing the opportunity of hiring the best, just because we are basing on biases and preconceptions that simply yield worse performance and a waste of money.

Although discrimination is found in all industries, some particularities are seen in the software world which call for action more urgently. For starters, we find overwhelming data of growth. In an industry of full employment globally speaking, where every year we are losing a big amount of income because not all the vacancies available are filled, we have to overcome any barrier that prevents us from getting the best talent. Every year, countries and industries lose money, because they simply cannot find professionals interested in being part of a sector whose income practically tripled in merely 10 years.

On the following graphic, taken from a report drafted in April 2016 by the Chamber of Software Companies and I.T. Services of Argentina (CESSI), the impressive growth of the Software industry between 2005 and 2015 can be clearly seen:

The cost of sexism

This striking expansion is based on the fundamental material upon which all the industry is supported: talent, human intelligence, skills to resolve algorithms and turn them into bits that fly through an increasingly cheaper and less limiting infrastructure. Numbers speak by themselves: There are 5000 unfilled positions every year in the software sector, empty spaces that translate into a loss of (roughly calculated from the average which is billed yearly per person) U$D 236,405,000 on a yearly basis. Where would we all be now provided we could overcome this difficulty?

A second factor, belonging to the history of the industry, is the fact that in the past we found bigger gender diversity than the one we have now. Software development has been a discipline that attracted women from the early days and this affirmation is backed by solid grounds. In America in 1984, 37% of graduates from technical-I.T. careers where women; today this only accounts for 18%. In Argentina, according to the Fundación Sadosky report, the decrease is even deeper: in the Computing Sciences career at Universidad de Buenos Aires (UBA), women represented 75% of the student body in the 70’s, while they only represent now 11% of the total. The next graphic shows how abrupt the plunge has been compared to other disciplines, including scientific careers, such as physics.

The cost of sexism 02

The reasons vary, but no doubt, the impact of the personal computer as an object which was placed preferably in a son’s room (this podcast is highly recommendable), along with a videogame industry which mainly focused on men (because they were the ones who owned computers) and in this war (maybe for some other reasons), women were rapidly expelled from the classrooms and consequently, from the industry.

What would happen if we could include them again? In a growing sector demanding professionals, having great men and women and a background of being much more diverse gender-wise, a cultural change would represent immediate economic growth which would be deeper and much more relevant in the long run.

The trend is promising, indicators are improving now. In Universidad Tecnológica Nacional (UTN), for instance, there has been positive evolution: “In 2007, 12% of women were registered. In 2016, 19%“. Initiatives such as Chicas en tecnología – and their amazing project called Programando un Mundo Mejor (PUMM) -, AdaIT or LinuxChix show increasingly more interest in eliminating the gap, and therefore, making the industry grow.

What can we do? Become aware, research data, investigate, collaborate and get involved (for example, becoming CET mentors), the same as we go about solving any other issue. A concrete example are the brilliant analyses on the last survey of Sysarmi’s salaries, carried out by Pablo Fernández, where he examines the difference in salaries between men and women following a clear, transparent and smart method to demonstrate that women are being paid less than men, which of course, puts them off when trying to get involved in technology.

What must be not done? Think that things will change alone, that everything will be worked out by magic throughout time. If things have been accomplished, it was because of fights from people who put and are putting their energy towards generating change. A very interesting report is the one by the company Randstad where it is proved that there is a discursive correctness which is not reflected in facts.

There are many wider sides to the gender problematic in our societies – directly linked to this editorial topic – which should be worked on:

  • Inequity in the housework, to which women are historically more devoted, and that constitute an unpaid job of an actual economic impact.

  • Lack of resources and policies linked to maternity to allow women to exercise their role of mothers with accountability while growing professionally at the same time.

  • The scarce participation of women in power environments, both at the state and entrepreneurial level.

  • Self-disparaging from women due to a mindset both men and women historically carry.

One of my favorite phrases that come to mind whenever I speak and read about this topic, are the words from the Nobel Prize, Desmond Tutu: If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

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