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Closing the Gender Gap

Yael Kidron

How should society promote equal gender representation in all industries, including hi-tech companies? What should schools and companies do to foster equal access to leadership roles? What are the promising practices and how early should we start? These are just a few of the questions that we asked in an event hosted by Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics with three women leaders in tech. Watch a video about the event.

Nevertheless, She Persisted: Women Leaders in Tech

woman presenting

woman presenting

Framing the Challenge

  • In the Draw-a-Scientist Test—a projective test in which students imagine and draw a scientist— about 95 percent of boys and 58 percent of girls drew a male scientist, and this gap is larger in high school than in elementary school.[1]
  • One in two girls refrain from speaking their mind or disagreeing with others because they want to be liked, and one in three girls are afraid to take on leadership roles for fear of being perceived as bossy.[2]
  • By the time they reach college, women are substantially less likely than men to seek technology and engineering degrees.[3]
  • The proportion of women with bachelor’s degrees in computer sciences has declined from 25 percent in 2004 to 18 percent in 2014.[4]
  • Both in tech and other industries, men are three times more likely than women to be in senior leadership positions.[5]
  • Women have less access to chief executives in their companies and are more likely to be denied a promotion than men.[6]

Lessons Learned

Pratima Rao Gluckman interviewed 19 women who reached senior positions in hi-tech companies. She asked them to tell their personal stories and frame some key takeaways. Here is a selected list of advice they shared:[7]

      ✔  Mentors, sponsors, and networking groups play a critical role in advancing under-represented
          women and ethnic-minorities.
      ✔  Publishing the stories of role models can inspire women and ethnic minorities to take on challenges
          in school and the workforce.
      ✔  Community members, teachers, and employees should understand the negative effects of toxic
          words such as “dragon lady.”
      ✔  Schools and companies should help individuals resist the imposter syndrome by encouraging open
          dialogue and systems of support.
      ✔  In addition to access to quality education in STEM, schools should promote personal motivation and
      ✔  Schools, companies, and the media should avoid stereotyping the image of a successful leader.

Fighting the Imposter Syndrome

Santa Clara Law’s Wellness Task Force is a joint effort of students, staff, and faculty committed to ensuring that students do not feel alone in their struggle and to give them the tools to push back on sources of stress and unhappiness. An event held by the Wellness Task Force earlier this school year aimed to tackle the prevalence of the imposter syndrome—the gap individuals maintain between what they feel and what they show to other people. In this event, students prepared masks. They decorated the outer side of the mask with bright colors and messages of strength and happiness. They wrote what they feel but don’t always tell others—including thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt. The Task Force helped students to understand that to be healthy and successful, they need to know that they are not the only ones who are anxious, and seeking help is a habit of highly successful people. Another healthy habit is self-compassion. Self-compassionate people understand that everybody makes mistakes and sometimes fail. Through the Eight Pillars of Wellness, the Task Force offers programs and resources to promote the wellness of students and faculty members.

8 Pillars of Wellness


[1] Miller, D. I., Nolla, K. M., Eagly, A. H., & Uttal, D. H. (2018). The development of children’s gender‐science stereotypes: A meta‐analysis of 5 decades of US Draw‐a‐scientist studies. Child Development, 89(6), 1943–1955.

[2] Hinkelman, L. (2017). The Girls’ Index: New insights into the complex world of today’s girls. Columbus, OH: Ruling Our eXperiences, Inc.

[3] The White House Council on Women and Girls. (2014). Women and girls of color: Addressing challenges and expanding opportunities. Washington DC: The White House.

[4] National Science Foundation. (2017). Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering. Washington DC: Author.

[5] Korn Ferry Institute. (2017). Women in the C-Suite. San Francisco, CA: Author.

[6] McKinsey & Company. (2018). Women in the workplace. New York, NY: Author.

[7] Gluckman, P. R. (2018). Nevertheless, she persisted: True stories of women leaders in tech. Victoria, Canada: FriesenPress. 

Mar 12, 2019