Where Are the Women in the Tech Industry?

New York Magazine's big piece on the city's tech scene provokes an inquiry

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"As a general rule...the founders in the scene tend to be male," writes Doree Shafrir in New York magazine. Her cover story profiles the emerging tech industry in New York. In so doing, she touches on a local and national trend in the industry: a dearth of women. Shafrir interviews tech entrepreneurs like Fred Wilson who say they "try like hell" to hire women but can't seem to find them.

"We tell the world we’ve got this opening, and anybody who’s interested can apply, and it’s 90 percent men who even bother to apply. I mean, I don’t know what the problem is," he says.

Shafrir also interviews Elizabeth Stark, an instructor in law and technology at Yale, who says the problem is more sinister.

Men refer men. You have to directly address the problem, or you won’t change it. So if we just keep it status quo, for all the reasons defined in these self-reinforcing networks, they will stay self-reinforcing with the white, geeky, male, Stanford/Harvard-dropout types. And that’s who a lot of the V.C.’s are investing in.

Rachel Sklar at Mediaite homes in on this aspect of the article, scrutinizing Wilson's claim that he tries "like hell" in his recruiting efforts:

As for "telling the world" — well, it depends how you define "world." Wilson has advertised it in his popular wee-hours email (see here and here) and on the Union Square Ventures blog (see here and here), but that seems only to be telling his world. And if that world reaches 90% men and you’re trying to bring in women, then maybe a different solution is required.

Meanwhile, Joe Coscarelli at The Village Voice nods his head, "It's a boy's world, still." He cites a recent New York Times article saying "women create only 8 percent of venture-backed tech start-ups." The women deficit is somewhat intriguing because it runs counter to a number of other trends. As the Times notes:

Women now outnumber men at elite colleges, law schools, medical schools and in the overall work force. Yet a stark imbalance of the sexes persists in the high-tech world, where change typically happens at breakneck speed.

The Times offers a handful of explanations:

Girls begin to turn away from math and science in elementary school, because of discouragement from parents, underresourced teachers and their own lack of interest and exposure, according to a recent report by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Just 1 percent of girls taking the SAT in 2009 said they wanted to major in computer or information sciences, compared with 5 percent of boys, according to the College Board.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.