Thursday, 7 May 2015

Women in Tech:
Is your I.T. Workplace just a Man-Cave for Frat Boys?

“An issue dear to my heart.”
~ Larry Page, CEO of Google
Image: Google’s Offices 

We know we’re sticking our neck out on this, especially leading with an image of Google’s offices, which—let’s face it—are a bit of a Shangri-la of high-tech office work environments, but it’s an issue which needs to be raised.
“Women make up more than half the US population, account for more than half of college graduates, and earn 40 percent of the MBAs awarded each year. Yet women comprise a much smaller percentage of the tech industry workforce, based on diversity reports released by more than 10 companies, from Apple to Google to Twitter.”
Source: CNET: It's not women who are the problem in tech land 

According to Larry Page’s Google+ feed, the topic of women in tech is an issue “dear to [his] heart.” Source: . As so it should be, according to Negotiation Consultant Victoria Pynchon, who points out the addition of three women to the board of directors “immediately and significantly increases bottom line performance.” Source: And that 80% of purchase decisions are made by women, making for a striking marketing case.
“That's a fact. Numerous studies show that teams with gender and race diversity get better results. A Lehman Brothers survey of 100 teams found that "gender balanced" teams were most likely to experiment, be creative, share knowledge and fulfill tasks, while a 2009 paper by Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques found that technical work teams with women were better at staying on schedule and had lower project costs.

“McKinsey and Co., meanwhile, says diversity translates into dollars: companies that are more gender- and ethnically diverse perform better financially.” 

Yet according to the same CNET article, a survey by executive recruitment firm Korn Ferry reported women held only 14.3 percent of board seats at the 100 top tech companies in June of 2013. Ten percent of those boards had no women on their boards whatsoever at year’s end 2014.

Hopes Dashed

Carol Bartz, the former CEO of Autodesk and Yahoo, who’s been on the boards of Intel, Cisco Systems, BEA Systems and Network Appliance (now NetApp),  has “seen just about everything the industry can throw at a woman. That's why she ‘couldn't be more disappointed’ by what's going on in Silicon Valley and the technology industry today.” Source:

According to University of Wisconsin-Madison research, only 14 percent of engineers were women in 2012, and almost 40 percent of women with engineering degrees never enter the field or quit after a short time in it.


Victoria Pynchon believes the main issue is lack of available child care. In an industry legendary for providing “perks” to attract and retain millennial talent—everything from in house basketball and beach volleyball courts, grocery and car shopping services, even a ticket-buying service and, of all things, doggy daycare—childcare is still a rarity.
“Bay Area companies often plan expansive offices with gyms, kitchens, game rooms, and other lavish perks to attract and retain the brightest workers. But onsite child care centers rarely make the list of amenities. Only 7% of companies nationwide offer on-site daycare to employees, a percentage that has held since 2005.”
~ Fortune Magazine

But there is another pressing reason, related to the frat-boy culture of a male-dominated industry…

"I had this fantasy that the young men growing up [after me] had more realistic views of their college friends and they would treat them better," Bartz says, shaking her head. "But they're just frat boys...I couldn't be more disappointed."

A Mature Industry that Still Behaves Immaturely

Look, we get it: the hi-tech industry has to attract and retain young talent. But in the retention of said talent, companies need to recognize that young people grow up and have a maturing list of priorities—especially women who get married and have children.

The tech industry itself is no longer run by hippies—though they may have been the pioneers at Atari and Apple. They no longer cater only to “nerds”—The Big Bang Theory notwithstanding—they also no longer cater only to males. The video game industry is beginning to come to terms with this, toning down overtly sexist content.

So when tech companies design their work spaces, and the much-lauded “perks” they use to entice and retain 20-something talent, do they make assumptions about who they are attracting? Are the executives and managers making these decisions men? Are they themselves living out some kind of fantasy of “the ultimate man-cave” at work?

We think probably yes.  Sure, there are many women who will find much of what’s on offer “cool” but there’s a difference between cool and practical, meaningful, useful, helpful.

There’s also a big difference between cool and pleasant, refreshing, relaxing, inspiring, beautiful.

Image by PeapodLife: Cool or Beautiful? 

You can say many things about many hi-tech companies’ work environments; and gawk jaw-dropped over many of their perks, but rarely will you come away thinking “wow, what a beautiful, inspiring place to work.”

Not everyone equates an adult-kindergarten environment or frat-boy fantasy man-cave to inspiring. Just because someone is an engineer and interested in working with technology doesn’t make them automatically interested in an environment best suited to cyborgs and adolescents.

Plenty of ‘Cool’ and “Wow!”

And to be clear: there isn’t anything wrong with ‘cool.’ It’s just that ‘cool’ has very little staying power. What’s cool today is very rarely still cool after some time. What we’re advocating for is a little substance injected into the midst of all that cool…and let’s face it, an indoor rainforest ecosystem has plenty of its own cool and “wow!” to go around. It’s just that it also has something that no amount of digital technology alone can match…it has life.

Leadership from the Top

The leaders of many hi-tech companies aren’t even engineers; or men; or in their twenties. The opportunity to redefine the tech workplace as a space of innovation and inspiration which speaks to everyone in an equal way—including management—begins at the top. It doesn’t need to be a case of pandering to frat-boy mentality; it can be something far more beautiful and meaningful; practical and inspirational.

Rainforests @ Work

Male or female, young or old, engineer or artist, we are all human beings. Our biological and energetic nature means our reliance on the basics of life, health and wellness is absolute. Especially for those who spend the majority of their time indoors in front a computer screen, the opportunity to bring the refreshing and rejuvenating effects of nature back into their life in a beautiful and meaningful way should not be overlooked.

Of all the perks and clever design decisions that go into the typical tech workspace, there is one which represents a more mature appreciation for what all individuals—young and old—need and crave. PeapodLife Ecosystems deliver.

Video by PeapodLife: PeapodLife Living Wall EcoSystem Fitch Street

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