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Not Much Love in "Bro Love" Culture for Women Working in Tech

Challenges for women working in tech are very real. Though the pay gap may be less in the tech industry than other sectors (the New York Times reported that women in tech earn 89 cents for every dollar earned by men - as compared with the American average of 79 cents on the dollar), women in tech are by no means better off. 

Women are still grossly underrepresented in tech companies, making up only 20 percent of employees. Compounding underrepresentation is the "position gap": as women are promoted, they begin to earn less than men in comparable positions. According to one survey conducted in 2015, men in engineering and other male tech professionals were put into jobs with titles and pay scales that exceeded those for women doing the same work. Men in the top 10 positions identified in the survey had average salaries in 2014 ranging from $92,245 to $127,750, while women received $43,068 to $98,328 for the same effort. In other words, women are being paid millions of dollars less by the tech industry than similarly situated men - and this pay inequity worsens as women move up the ladder, gaining greater responsibility.

Why so much disparity and inequity in an industry populated largely by younger workers? One huge factor is the "bro love" culture that pervades the tech workplace. The seeds of the problem were planted in the early years, as historically male-dominated computer and STEM programmers produced an imbalanced talent pool of engineers and coders who founded the fledgling start-ups that now dominate Silicon Valley.

Women were overlooked and often not even considered for engineering, coding, or even management jobs and tech industry workplaces formed without them. Men became used to working with men, bonding over shared interests in sports, gaming, tech toys, male cultural humor and traditionally male-dominated hobbies. Relatively little corporate effort has been applied to remedying the firmly rooted "bro love" culture - one in which men are immediately comfortable and thrive but in which women feel like outsiders. Worsening the problem is the fact that money for start-ups flows from venture capital and private equity, both dramatically male-dominated sectors with their own special version of "bro love."

The "bro love" culture both intentionally and unintentionally often excludes, marginalizes, and disrespects women. To break the barriers, women have to constantly prove themselves worthy and find ways to become accepted in a hugely male dominated world. No surprise that many women experience both overt and more nuanced discrimination.

The implications for women in tech workplaces infected with "bro love" include:

  • Marginalization of women
  • Pay inequity
  • Title inequity
  • Lack of promotion opportunities
  • Difficulties with, and retaliation for, taking family and pregnancy leave
  • Sexual harassment
  • Hostile work environment

The result, quite simply, is a workplace culture in which women must protect themselves in order to succeed. Women should consider the following to better ensure that protection:

  • Negotiation: Women, particularly executives at higher levels, should negotiate employment and other agreements to clearly establish critical terms such as compensation packages, the parameters of termination and resignation, and duties and responsibilities.
  • Understand the law: Both federal and state laws provide broad protections relating to discrimination, retaliation, pay inequity, family and pregnancy leave, and hostile work environments. Learn about and understand your rights.
  • Litigation: Where an employer's actions rise to the level of illegality, legal action may be appropriate, whether on an individual or class basis. Litigation can be an option for women in tech who have received discriminatory treatment in the workplace.

Legal counsel: Experienced legal counsel can provide advice on the wide variety of employment issues that arise in the workplace. Such advice is essential when one is faced with serious workplace issues.

The "bro culture" is an undeniable reality that continues to pose significant obstacles for women in the tech world. But there are ways women can protect themselves to ensure they not only secure jobs in the tech sector - but thrive and succeed.

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