Posted by Renee Schmidt

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington (@arrington) generated a stir of controversy in a recent interview for some comments he made about the lack of women and minorities in the technology industry.

But, to me the real question is:

Is Arrington right?  I weigh in.

I’d like to draw attention to a couple of things we need to keep in mind, when addressing this issue.

There is and always has been a significant and undeniable disparity in the tech industry between the amount of men and women. In fact, only a tiny sliver; 3% of ALL tech firms are started by women. (Source: Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa), visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, tech researcher & entrepreneur). This being the case, I’m not sure that industry roadblocks are necessarily to blame.  In fact, a recent study by the University of Iowa suggests that there’s a disparity amongst men and women in tech because of a general lack of interest amongst women.

I personally think that this discrepancy is likely related to upbringing, societal factors or family values, but is most likely the combined effect of all three factors.

In my own case, I started a technology blog for women, but I’ve observed that the majority of my readers are men – so I’ve shifted the focus of SheBytes.com to be more inclusive of both male and female readers.

This has been a clear example to me, that in general, there is just more interest in learning about technology and its developments among men.

Because of this, I agree with Mr. Arrington in that there is certainly an absence of minorities and women from the tech world, but I feel that this current situation is definitely not set in stone.

Surprisingly, research suggests that women dominate the internet space. This makes sense if we consider that women are more social and outgoing and further pushes the question of “why?”:

Why then, are there not more women working in tech?

As women just don’t gravitate towards careers in technology with the same aptitude as men, perhaps as of now this question is not answerable.

But, I think that the next 10 years can see exciting changes in this imbalance. As the next generation of kids is growing up in a world even further surrounded with technology, young girls will experience tech early on in life. Due to the pervasiveness of personal technologies like smartphones, apps, social networks, online gaming, etc. children will grow up submerged in technology.

Also very important, is that the costs of these technologies are rapidly falling. Companies like Raspberry Pi and their incredible USB sized computer, (which will soon be available for around $25) are revolutionizing the way we think about tech. This means that more people around the world will be exposed to all of these cutting-edge developments and innovations.

Additionally, I think, in the case of women, we approach technology much differently than men.

I’ve observed that tech is interpreted differently by the sexes: — Men are generally interested in features and want to know: “what?” (ex: “what does it do?” and of course, “what date will it be released?”) — Women are generally interested in practicality and want to know: “why?” and “how?” (ex: “why do I need this?” and “how can I use it?”).

“Venture-backed companies run by a woman have 12% higher revenues” – Vivek Wadhwa

Because of this, statistics like the one above by Wadhwa are INCREDIBLE but not shocking.

As women make up such a small fraction of the entrepreneurial arena, they are valuable assets to companies and investors. Women at the helm see things differently than men, and have proven by reaching the distant point of heading a tech company that they bring something unique. They carry an element to the table worth investing in.

I share Arrington’s sentiment: “female and minority entrepreneurs now get an extra boost from investors “dying” to diversify their portfolios” but that doesn’t mean they’re any less worthy than their white male counterparts.

In fact, I think that the women and minorities who do ‘make it’ to a place where they are eligible candidates for funding in the first place, are stellar business people.  It’s atypical, and the ones that climbed to the top are, in my opinion, individuals that are really willing to go against the grain, against societal norms, and they are people willing to take risks –the qualities one needs to possess to be a successful entrepreneur!

And this risk taking and perspective is something invaluable in entrepreneurship…

I want to invest in that!

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  • http://twitter.com/Adriana_Herrera Adriana Herrera

    I don’t think that women have a general lack of interest in tech rather there is a lack of exposure to it.  I agree that there are lots of societal factors that play into why there are so few women founders.  Once women are exposed to tech I think it becomes an addiction…a whole new world of possibilities open up. 

    As one of the few women startup founders in San Diego I am extremely passionate about increasing the ratio of women founding tech companies.  Thanks for this post. :)

    • http://shebytes.com Renee Schmidt

      Adriana, thanks for leaving a comment! It is lways great to hear the perspective of another female tech entrepreneur. And thanks for the RT!