According to the Harvard Business Review, 41% of women working in tech eventually end up leaving the field (compared to just 17% of men), and I can understand why…

I first learned to code at age 16, and am now in my 30s. I have a math PhD from Duke. I still remember my pride in a “knight’s tour” algorithm that I wrote in C++ in high school; the awesome mind warp of an interpreter that can interpret itself (a Scheme course my first semester of college); my fascination with numerous types of matrix factorizations in C in grad school; and my excitement about relational databases and web scrapers in my first real job.

Over a decade after I first learned to program, I still loved algorithms, but felt alienated and depressed by tech culture. While at a company that was a particularly poor culture fit, I was so unhappy that I hired a career counselor to discuss alternative career paths. Leaving tech would have been devastating, but staying was tough.

I’m not the stereotypical male programmer in his early 20s looking to “work hard, play hard”. I do work hard, but I’d rather wake up early than stay up late, and I was already thinking ahead to when my husband and I would need to coordinate our schedules with daycare drop-offs and pick-ups. Kegerators and ping pong tables don’t appeal to me. I’m not aggressive enough to thrive in a combative work environment. Talking to other female friends working in tech, I know that I’m not alone in my frustrations.

When researcher Kieran Snyder interviewed 716 women who left tech after an average tenure of 7 years, almost all of them said they liked the work itself, but cited discriminatory environments as their main reason for leaving.

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Written by Rachel Thomas

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