At GHC: Saying High-Tech Is a Meritocracy Doesn’t Make it So

September 30, 2010 at 10:37 am 6 comments

I am at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing this week, which is here in Atlanta. The below piece by Caroline Simard, who is charge of research for the Anita Borg Institute (which organizes GHC each year) was clearly timed in ACM Technews to coincide. It is a fascinating point that women and minorities don’t get the same rewards for the same efforts, and sometimes because they hold the stereotypes themselves.

His assertion that Silicon Valley is a pure meritocracy and that anyone with a good idea can get VC funding or advance in the workplace and “get rich” is more difficult to substantiate. High-technology in general, and Silicon Valley in particular, prides itself on being a meritocracy — and while we all work hard to live up to this ideal, saying it is doesn’t make it so. Research shows that women face persistent barriers to retention and advancement in the high tech industry — to name a few: isolation, a lack of access to influential social networks and mentors, lack of role models, stereotyping, unwelcoming cultures, and organizational practices that are not adapted to a diverse workforce. The lack of access to relevant social networks was also found to be a factor in women’s limited access to venture capital, and research found that VC firms with women partners were more likely to fund women entrepreneurs. For a comprehensive view of the issues in the workplace, and the statistics, one can read our Anita Borg Institute 2008 report in collaboration with the Clayman Institute at Stanford University, as well as a report recently published by NCWIT which aggregates several sources of research on the issue. In a 2008 study, MIT Professor Emilio Castilla found that even in environments that are designed to be meritocratic, women and minorities receive less compensation for equal performance. Such bias is more likely to occur when there is more discretion for individual managers.

Is this bias deliberate, and is it purposefully done by men to bring down women? In most cases, no and no. In fact, women are just as likely to hold gender stereotypes about science and technology as are men.

via Caroline Simard: Saying High-Tech Is a Meritocracy Doesn’t Make it So.

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