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Twitter co-founder and Square chief executive officer Jack Dorsey got some heat this week when he tweeted a pic of the latest batch of Square interns. He didn’t draw criticism for what was in the picture but, rather, what was not – there was not a single female intern in the group. Posted with the caption "Lunch with the @Square interns. Featuring little sandwiches with the crust cut off. #aw #summerbreak #backtosquare," all thirteen of the eager staffers were men.
Several Twitter followers were quick to question the lack of women, to which Dorsey replied "[N]ot in this batch. We'd love to find some” and went on to say that the company would do some research on how similar companies have been successful at adding more women to their staff.
In response to a more specific Tweet asking, "What were obstacles to hiring female interns this time around?no qualified? no interested female candidates?,” Dorsey responded, “We made offers to female candidates & they chose other opportunities for various reasons. We continue to make offers; a priority."
So is this image cause for alarm about gender equity in the workplace, or were all the qualified ladies that Square wanted to hire simply uninterested in the position for their own reasons? Well, before we condemn Dorsey, it would be unfair not to mention that Square, a tech startup that allows anyone to accept credit cards, has a number of women in prominent roles, including as its CFO. And unlike many Silicon Valley startups (including Twitter), Square has a female venture capitalist on its board.
Furthermore, according to the American Society for Engineering Education, women received just 18 percent of engineering bachelor's degrees in 2010, and receive 20 percent of all bachelor's degrees in computer science awarded in the U.S., according to NPR. This means that, based on the professions women are choosing pursue, there is a much smaller pool of female candidates for Square and similar companies.
However, the fact that this photo has sparked such heated debate does say some things about gender dynamics in the workplace – would we even be having this discussion if a prominent company posted a pic of an all-female batch of interns? Probably not.
Working in the public relations industry, I’m fortunate to say that I often lose sight of the gender gap because I don’t typically see it in my office. I work in a workplace that’s predominantly women (12 female employees to two males) and I feel that I’m fairly compensated for my efforts and never discriminated against. However, research conducted in recent years shows that, in general, women in the workplace are still at a disadvantage compared to their male counterparts. Research collected from the 2003 census shows that women only make about 77.5 cents for every dollar that a man earns (updated research shows it at around 80 cents). Women in professional specialty occupations earned just 72.7% of what men in the same position earned, and women in upper level executive, administrative, and managerial occupations earned even less at 72.3%. Doesn’t seem very fair! Research conducted by Grant Thorton found that four in ten businesses worldwide have no women in senior management. Here in the United States, women still feel the stress of trying to break into upper management, with 93% of the 439 senior women executives surveyed by Korn/Ferry International in the 1990s saying that a glass ceiling for women still existed.
Does this mean that it’s hopeless for women to expect fair pay and equal opportunities? Despite the gap in wages, many economists feel that it is due to different personal choices men and women make rather than because of an unfair work environment. Women and men often choose to prioritize career advancement versus personal fulfillment, child rearing, and hours spent at work differently. The reality seems to be the gap is slowly but surely closing as women become increasingly educated and dual-income families become the norm, but the gap hasn’t entirely closed, which can be pretty disheartening.
On a positive note, there are about 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. – that’s nearly 40% of all businesses. The frustrating idea that women don't make good managers just doesn't hold up when you look at these kinds of numbers, with women managing a large number of employees and making major profit in the process. Recent studies report that women outnumber men as managers in fields like human resources, health administration and education—and reports show that many businesses have seen a positive direct financial impact from hiring more women.
It’s hard to deny that the workplace still presents different opportunities for men versus women, but it’s tougher to say whether the root is gender discrimination or a difference in personal and professional choices. It’s clear that women can, of course, be very successful in the workplace, but it’s still a sensitive issue, and a debate can be easily triggered by photos like Dorsey’s. What do you think, ladies? Have you ever been the victim of gender discrimination in the workplace, or do you feel there are fair chances for working women to get ahead?