The tech industry’s gender gap is an oft-discussed topic, and quite necessarily so. Now (thankfully) more efforts are being made to encourage women to study science and engineering in school, and the below-surface sexism of the male-driven workplaces in Silicon Valley is being exposed and combatted. But rarely is there an example of the tech gender gap as vivid and well articulated as the one illustrated in today’s New York Times article on the Stanford University class of 1994. No wonder the article is popping up on everyone’s news feeds.
So why is it so important? Well, the Stanford class of 1994 was kind of a perfect storm. It was right at the formation of the dot com bubble, right in the physical place where all of those tech innovations would take place. The students of that class went on to rule the tech world, or should we say the male students of that class.
The Times went to the reunion of the class of 1994, to take a look at why so few of the women in that class ended up on the forefront of the tech revolution while so many of the men were front and center. As one graduate, Gina Bianchini, posited to the paper: “The Internet was supposed to be the great equalizer. So why hasn’t our generation of women moved the needle?” The Times piece probes that question and the findings are sadly as to be expected.
In some regards, the Times reveals the same old story of women struggling with sexist business culture, or making decisions for husband’s career rather than their own.
One of the class’ members, Jessica DiLullo, the most successful female entrepreneur from the class of ’94 (she started Stella & Dot) told the reporter the following story about her initial attempts to get in on the growing tech industry via her idea for an online gift registry. A story that underscores the un-level playing field which women are still ridiculously being forced to battle through.
But as the article shows, most other women were stymied by the risk factor involved in the tech industry. Areas like medicine and law at least guaranteed a return on their time investment; the tech boom had no such guarantee. Particularly after the dot-com bubble burst, many of the women in the class of 1994 were looking for ways to have and support a family. (Of course, this line of thinking points to another entrenched sexist notion, in which women shoulder most of the burden of childcare and domestic duties.)
The good news? 30 years later, many of the women who missed out on the early wave of the tech boom at Stanford are now getting their feet wet in the industry. Companies are becoming easier to start, and they’re embracing a second chance. And hopefully at least a smidge of progress has been made since the early ’90s that women in business are not putting career way down on their priority list.
As Bianchini put it, “Silicon Valley loves redemption. So do I.” We’re ready for it.
The entire article is a total must-read. Check it out here.