CAMP 2014: Journalists may be hurting women in tech more than helping

Story by 2014 Fellow Nicole Raz | Photos by Ellie Van Houtte

Angela Woodall, Natalia Oberti Noguera and Alaina Percival discuss the role of women in tech.

The numbers of women working in tech are low, and two JAWS panelists say the media’s coverage of women in tech isn’t doing much to give those numbers a boost.

“In journalism, people focus on catchy titles that are more controversial and potentially result in more people clicking, but a lot of those are negative,” said Alaina Percival, an adviser at CodePath, a mobile developer school for engineers.

Headlines like “Tech companies haven’t gotten past sexism 1.0” and “Why women leave tech: It’s the culture, not because ‘math is hard’” aren’t helping.

“What you’re telling all the women and the girls who read that headline is that tech isn’t where they belong,” Percival said.

It’s not just negative headlines that aren’t helping; the sources journalists use to represent women in tech could also use some more thought, says Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship, an angel investing boot camp for women.

In 2013, 19 percent of U.S. angel investors, also known as informal investors, were women and 4 percent were minorities, according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire.

“When you see women in tech, it’s also white women in tech; straight, white women in tech,” Noguera said.

Tech panels and journalists ought to more effectively craft their invitations, or cultivate their sources more effectively on deadline, by adjusting the language they use when reaching out to multiple women of differing backgrounds, Noguera and Percival said.

Women tend to be more comfortable being “resources” in a subject rather than an “expert” on a subject, Noguera said.

“If we showcase diversity, we’ll attract diversity,” she said.

Journalists can also refocus the media narrative on women in tech by questioning the assumptions people have inside of the male-dominated industry.

“It’s emphasizing the small, everyday things,” Percival said, such as the language in other journalist’s questions, like, “Will your sons or sons-in-law take over the business one day?”

“It’s the things that happen every single day,” she said. “They add up, and that’s what makes you feel excluded from your work environment.”