More Than a Third of Tech Industry Employees Have Experienced or Witnessed Sexism, a New Survey Finds

Other research suggests that women are more likely to experience both sexism and sexual harassment in male-majority workplaces.
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In a new survey of tech industry employees, 37 percent said they have experienced sexism at work.

Earlier this month, Blind (an "anonymous workplace social network" used by many big technology companies) released a report about sexism in the tech industry. The data came from a survey that Blind administered through its network to thousands of employees across the industry.

The survey found that 37 percent of respondents had experienced or witnessed sexism at work. Respondents included employees across various technology companies (including Microsoft, Intel, Adobe, Oracle, Amazon, Google, Facebook, eBay, Apple, and Uber).

Here's what you need to know about the survey and how its results stack up to other industries.

How Was the Survey Conducted?

The survey asked users to answer "True" or "False" to one statement: I have witnessed or experienced sexism at my current company.

Respondents employed at Google reported the lowest rates of sexism, at 25.85 percent. At Intel, 59.38 percent of employees reported that they had witnessed or experienced sexism. According to the report, this was the highest response rate of "True" among all of the companies that had at least 100 employee responses.

The survey had a few limitations, however. First, while 7,930 users responded, there are 52,000 employees at Microsoft alone, and thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of employees at each of the other surveyed companies, according to information enclosed in the report. Second, the survey didn't stratify response based on gender, which is often an important way to break down and contextualize data on sexism.

How Do Sexism Rates in Big Tech Compare to Other Industries?

About four in 10 working women in the United States report that they have faced gender discrimination on the job, according to a 2017 study from the Pew Research Center, which is consistent with the data from the Blind survey. Gender discrimination can come in many forms, including earning less than male counterparts performing the same jobs, being treated as incompetent, or being passed up for important assignments as a result of gender.

The tech industry is one of a wide array of industries in the U.S. that remains dominated by males, along with manufacturing and agriculture. Another Pew Research Center study found that women who work in majority-male workplaces are significantly more likely than other women to report that sexual harassment is a problem in their industry.

According to the study, 37 percent of women who said their workplace was mostly male reported that they had been treated as if they weren't competent because of their gender, compared to 20 percent who worked in female-dominated industries, and 18 percent who worked in gender-balanced environments. Thirty-five percent of women who worked in majority-male environments said they earned less than a man doing the same job, compared to 22 percent in female-dominated workplaces and 23 percent in balanced gender environments.

Workplace Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the #MeToo Era

Over the past few years, women across industries have increasingly come forward to discuss how women have experienced sexual harassment as well as more insidious forms of sexism such as lower pay or exclusion from professional opportunities.

While sexual harassment isn't surveyed specifically in the Blind study, the current moment has highlighted the increasingly blurred line between sexism and sexual harassment. In a recently circulated open statement, 250 law professors condemned sexual harassment. The statement explores the relationship between sexism and sexual harassment, offers principles for addressing sexual harassment, and argues that sexism (and a desire to put women down) is often at the root of sexual harassment. The same Pew study concluded that women who work in majority-male workplaces are significantly more likely than other women to report that sexual harassment is a problem in their industry.

How do experiences of sexual harassment vary across different industries? A 2018 study found that the media and entertainment industries had the highest rates of sexual harassment when compared to eight other white-collar industries, with 41 percent of women in that industry reporting cases of sexual harassment. The average rate of people reporting sexual harassment across all eight industries was 34 percent of women and 13 percent of men. The tech industry had the second-highest reported rates of sexual harassment of women, at 37 percent.

In all of the industries, however, women consistently experienced more sexual harassment than their male counterparts. Sexism and sexual harassment at work have many negative implications for victims, including physical and mental-health problems, inhibited professional success, and lower earnings.

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