While China’s tech industry has recently taken off, the same path has been a bit rockier for women who want to work in the field, specifically in coding. Some attribute this to China’s social and gender dynamics which tend to lead to a smaller number of women making a name for themselves beside their male coworkers.
“The traditional view is simply to think that women aren’t suitable to be programmers,” said Chen Bin, a former Microsoft engineer and the Beijing-based founder of Teach Girls Coding, a campaign to get more women into the sector.
This poor treatment of women in tech industries is only furthered by reports of startup tech companies looking to hire “programming motivators,” which is “a controversial job title whose responsibilities include socializing with male workers, buying them breakfast, and giving them massages.”
A human resources executive at the consumer finance company Chainfin told the New York Times that requirements for employment in this position include having a contagious laugh, being able to apply makeup, being over 5 feet 2 inches, and having “five facial features that must definitely be in their proper order.”
With jobs like these surfacing in China’s tech world, it does not come as a shock that many companies have very few female employees doing the actual coding, engineering, or designing. Female tech employees report lower pay than their male coworkers and an overall difference in how they are treated by employers.
“China’s law is very good in that it prohibits all discrimination against women,” said Feng Yuan, co-founder of Equality, a women’s rights advocacy group. “But there is no definition whatsoever of what discrimination is.”
Instances of discrimination fly under the radar, as they are ingrained into the culture of the workplace, and many find that the issue goes unaddressed, especially in technology.
There are companies and groups in China looking to change this dynamic. Chen Bin began offering free online tutorials that teach young women to code in hopes of moving more women toward the industry.
“What’s better than helping women find a decent, well-paid job to promote women’s status?” Chen asked. “Programmers never worry about finding a job and it is very suitable for women who prefer to work with machines rather than people. The only problem is so few of them apply for the job.”
The tutorials began in July 2017 and, two weeks after release, more than 30,000 people globally had signed up for the program, producing 40,000 pieces of work in online classroom assignments. Bin is very proud of this development and hopes that the tutorials will ultimately lead the women to understand that they can truly succeed.
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