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Why Are There So Few Women in Tech? Content Creator & Software Engineer Ainul Md Razib Speaks Up

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Why Are There So Few Women in Tech? Content Creator & Software Engineer Ainul Md Razib Speaks Up

September 18, 2023

Why are there so few women in tech? In the second of this 4-part series, SpudnikLab speaks to software engineer and content creator Ainul Md Razib about her experience being a woman in tech, and what can be done to get more females into the tech field.

Software engineer Ainul Md Razib was one of the few Malay-Muslim women in her Information Systems degree cohort at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Neither in school, nor at her previous job as a tech consultant at Thoughtworks Singapore, did she experience discrimination due to her gender or being a minority, she says. “However I have spoken to girls and women who didn’t have that experience at school and in the workplace, who were looked down upon because of their gender.”  

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Content creator and software engineer Ainul Md Razib says she didn’t experience discrimination because of her gender when she studied tech in university, nor in her previous role with a tech company in Singapore.

Social media comments

Ainul, who is also a content creator who goes by the handle @AinLovesCode on Instagram, makes educational social media videos on coding, tech jobs and diversity. “There have been a few insensitive comments, like ‘She’s just a diversity hire because she’s a woman, because why would they hire a woman?’”  

Ainul 9 Ainul at the TikTok office after a paper making workshop where they invited several educational TikTok creators. She was there as a participant and made her own paper
Ainul at the TikTok office after a paper-making workshop for educational TikTok creators.

Parental support (or lack of) for girls interested in tech 

“A lot of girls who may be on the same journey as me might not have the same support networks, encouragement from family. My parents had the standard jobs they wanted me to have, like a banker, or doctor, but when they saw I was interested in coding and software development, they told me to go for it, to make sure I could support myself and to work hard. I was lucky my parents never told me ‘Coding is just for guys.’” 

Biases of teachers about girls going into tech 

“In school, do you face being minimised, being told you’re less capable [because of your gender]? Are your teachers putting you down, saying ‘You’re a girl, so you don’t need to go for this coding event’? All you boys should go. It’s an amazing opportunity.’”

 Peer group responses

 “Also in school, you don’t want to be ridiculed or picked on. ‘[Classmates may say] this girl wants to be a guy because she knows coding. So that could be why many girls interested in tech don’t pursue it too deeply.”

 The male-dominated environment 

“Parents can wonder about their daughters in this male-dominated environment. Will they be objectified? We already know there is a gender pay gap. They may be treated fairly, such as getting equal pay, but being treated fairly and being treated with respect are different things. And if their daughters experience sexual harassment by male coworkers or a male manager, will these women’s reports be taken seriously or swept under the rug, or will she experience retaliation for reporting it?” 

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A male-dominated work environment which is dismissive of women’s technical abilities is an obstacle to more women entering and staying in the tech industry. PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Kotliarskyi for Unsplash

Little media representation of women in tech 

“Another problem is girls do not often see themselves or adult women represented in the media in tech and STEM fields, unless it’s International Women’s Day.”  

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Representations of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries in the media are few. PHOTO CREDIT: thisisengineering for Unsplash

How do men in the tech industry treat women in tech?

“Some men look at the women in the tech industry with respect, like, “’My manager who is a software developer is amazing, I learn so much from her.’ 

But some guys look down on women from the beginning. It’s a common mindset among men and boys. It could be due to a lack of exposure, it could be because they consume toxic masculinity media. If they have been raised to view, or keep seeing media, in which women are portrayed as being inferior compared to men, they will think, ‘I’m better than this woman next to me, even though we have the same qualifications and skills.’”

Another problem is getting women to stay in tech 

“It’s not just how to get more women in the industry, but how to retain them. If women are leaving, why? 

 Married women, especially those with children, also have challenges staying in the job. For some there can be the traditional expectation of the female to take care of the household chores and take on all the childcare responsibilities, even though both the female and male partners have jobs. 

 In a male-dominated industry, there is often an even smaller support network for these married women to leverage.”  

Ainul 7 Ainul coding at home
Ainul chilling at home and coding.

Getting more women into tech needs to be a long game

 “Because women are a community, a demographic, it [the effort to get more women into tech] needs to be a continuous effort, not just a one-off event. It’s like a muscle you have to work on. Companies pour money into short-term initiatives, often because they want to be seen to be doing their part for diversity. But it needs to be an entire community change. It needs to result in girls and women feeling safe [in the field of tech]. It needs to be about companies working harder to deal with the softer people aspects, rather than teaching tech skills to females.”

 We live in the era of the internet. As long as you have an internet connection and you want to learn this, you can learn it, anywhere. But it is getting into that industry, getting into that community of people who are working in these fields, feeling like you belong there, which is a lot more challenging.” 

In our next post in the series, we speak to Indonesian digital solutions developer (and SpudnikLab’s own team member!) Niky Ayu Lestari (@nikyayulestari on Instagram) about being a female in the tech industry in Indonesia. 

 

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