The Puget Sound Business Journal reported on Tableau Software and Zulily’s recent announcements for their IPOs. But the story was not about the two companies’ future financial prospects or even the services they provide. The article focuses on a continuing trend in the tech industry. The trend is a stark lack of women at the top, both in management and on the Boards of Directors. While underrepresentation of women in top level positions is a problem in general, the article points out that Seattle’s tech companies have even fewer women than its non-tech companies. Zulily is an online retail company that sells almost entirely to women, but it has only one woman in an upper management position and only one woman on its board.
The article notes that there are wide arrays of reasons for the continued lack of women in senior positions and on the Boards of Directors. Some of the reasons are more general and apply to just about every sector of employment, but some are industry specific. The more general reasons are thought to be due in part to social pressures to find a work-life balance while being the perfect mother and employee which tends to pull women either out of the workforce or onto career paths that are not likely to reach executive levels or gain the attention of board selection committees. More specifically in the tech industry, there is historical sexism which still persists today, both overtly and subtly. This has discouraged many women from pursuing careers in the field or has led them to more non-technical careers in the industry which puts them at a disadvantage in the industry.
Federal and state laws prohibit discriminatory business practices that are based on gender, this includes sexism. Washington State law goes a step further and protects against discrimination for gender identity, as well. Virtually all employers, subject to these laws, have policies in place that inform employees that discrimination is unacceptable. However, in areas with long standing cultures of discrimination and virtually no employees in the targeted group, it can be difficult for behaviors and negative messages to be identified, addressed, and changed, especially when the behaviors are subtle. One of the suggested methods to reduce the sexism and gender discrimination, both overt and subtle, in the tech industry and all industries has been to seek out more women for higher positions who can provide a different perspective, mentor younger women, and bring attention to the current issues.
Wages, Benefits, and More
One current and continuing issue beyond the overt gender discrimination of sexism is the wage gap between men and women which currently has women earning 77 cent for every dollar as an equally positioned and qualified man. Washington State is only slightly better than the national average at 78 cents per dollar. Some of the other issues women face are inflexible scheduling for working mothers, maternity leave, and daycare facilities. All of these gender gap and discrimination concerns are important employment concerns for employers and employees.
If you belief you have suffered from gender discrimination or have believe you have been discriminated against for other reasons in your employment, contact an employment law attorney.