Sharon Reid


Last month we featured six women who are currently making waves in the male dominant tech industry. Four of the women featured; Bethany Koby; Camille Rumani; Carina Walsh; and Rupa Gantra have all created their own opportunities by setting up their own companies – a viable alternative, but not without the unique challenges faced by those starting their own businesses. The challenges faced by women working in tech are being addressed by San Francisco, technical recruiter, Speak with a Geek (SWAG). As a leading recruitment agency within the tech sphere, SWAG is ideally placed to raise awareness of the lack of female representation.

“Beginning almost at birth, girls receive subtle messaging that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are for not for them. Everything from gendered toys, stereotypical advertisements, and even the subtle suggestions by parents and teachers can steer girls in directions outside of STEM subjects,” said Sarah Noyes, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at SWAG.

Furthermore, on average, only 18%* of computer science degree holders are women. Recent studies by US researchers analysed nearly 1.4 million Github users and found that code change suggestions made by women are more likely to be accepted on the open-source code sharing platform than those made by men, but only if their gender is hidden. When their gender is identifiable, there is a decrease in acceptance rate by 16.1%, demonstrating a bias against the perceived ability of women in tech. Concerns about pregnancy, maternity leave, and childcare factor into the hiring decisions of many employers, leaving women at an even further disadvantage.

Sarah Noyes - Speak with a Geek

Sarah Noyes – Speak with a Geek

“For those women who do manage to overcome these obstacles to find employment in the industry, the challenges don’t end there. Women entering the technology space are 45% more likely than their male peers to leave the field within a year,” said Sarah, quoting a study published in the Harvard Business Review in 2014.**

Sarah identifies micro-aggression; often in the form of sexist language or jokes, as a pervasive factor in technology. Other factors influencing exit from the industry by women include lack of accommodations for nursing mothers, non-flexible work schedules, and an extreme shortage of female mentors.

SWAG notes that these biases keep women from technology in three phases: As young girls, they’re pushed towards non-STEM subjects; as young women entering the tech workforce they face heightened scrutiny and bias from hiring managers; and then once employed in the sector, they’re driven out due to a non-inclusive work environment. Each subsequent phase leaves fewer women in the industry.SWAG

“Awareness is the first step toward enacting change,” says Sarah. “By bringing attention to these three phases of bias, we hope to inspire solutions in the industry. Everyone should be presented with equal opportunities,” adds Grant Conyers, Executive Vice President, Speak With A Geek.

About Sarah Noyes: Sarah is alumna of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and is the Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Speak with A Geek (SWAG), a top technical talent agency founded in 1999 and based in San Francisco. With a community of vetted Geeks millions strong, Sarah ensures diversity within SWAG’s talent pool and is a strong advocate in the tech industry for the importance of providing opportunities in technology to women, minorities, and talent with other underrepresented identities.

Her belief is that inclusive technology teams benefit the industry and society as a whole by incorporating unique perspectives, increasing innovation, enhancing problem solving, and improving employee retention and workplace morale. She is passionate about the technological advancements made possible by creating more space for people of all backgrounds and identities in tech, and for diversity and inclusion to be considered not only a business initiative driven by profits, but a moral priority at its core.