In Las Vegas, Women Rule the Tech World


While Silicon Valley struggles to close the gender gap, the tech workforce in nearby Las Vegas is overwhelmingly female, according to a new report.

Women only make up 29% of the U.S. tech community, according to data from Meetup, the U.S. Census Bureau and business intelligence firm RJMetrics, which recently explored the state of women in tech.

However, that’s far from the case in Las Vegas.

Women in Sin City comprise 65% of the tech scene, perhaps “influenced by the city’s female leadership and notoriety for gender paycheck equality,” says RJMetrics. In fact, Vegas, headed by female mayor Carolyn Goodman since 2011, is the only city in the U.S. where women comprise a majority of tech roles.

RJMetrics' Anita Garimella Andrews says having a female mayor is positively correlated with more women in tech. Of course, that is by no means the only influence.

Also important is education and pay equality. Women in Nevada earn around 85 cents on the dollar compared to men, the highest rate in the country only next to Vermont, according to data compiled by Forbes.

The next biggest female employers are Oakland, whose tech industry is comprised 47% of women, Nashville at 43.5% and Miami at 40.3%. New York, San Jose, Palo Alto, Seattle and Austin all linger around 30%, the industry average.

The report comes a month after Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) voluntarily provided diversity data about its workforce for the first time, showing a population comprised just 30% of women.

Google has since launched a $50 million coding initiative targeted at girls and pledged to increase spending on computer science education for both minorities and women.

“Fewer than 1% of high school girls express interest in majoring in computer science,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who has spearheaded Google’s “Made With Code” female initiative. “No matter what a girl dreams of doing, learning how to code will help her get there.”

Silicon Valley has historically had a “brogrammer” culture -- a quasi "man’s club" where startup founders bond over drinks and Ultimate Frisbee. With Marissa Mayer now heading Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), and Google investing in women, dents are forming in the glass ceiling.

Anne-Marie Roussel, co-founder of SeeSpace, said in a recent post that while education is a major problem, there are near-term solutions to the gender gap, including hiring more women in business roles.

"Based on my own experience of being the only woman in the room in 95% of my meetings, that ratio is dismally small,” she said. “This applies to corporate executives and VC circles but also, unfortunately, all the way to the startup founder crowd.”

In the Eureka Park startup zone at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Roussel said she only met one other woman who was also a part of a founding team.

“Now, I am realistic; I didn’t expect to find a majority of women as tech founders,” she said. “But such a dire state of affairs baffled me.”

Roussel says education is an obvious problem. But she also says that until it is fixed, and more women graduate with computer science degrees, tech companies can hire qualified women in roles ranging from marketing and sales, to operations, legal and human resources.

“There are plenty of exceptional women in financial, legal, marketing, strategy, sales roles out there in healthcare, entertainment, retail, food and beverage, real estate,” she said. “I run into them whenever I step out of Silicon Valley’s tech sandbox and I will be hiring them as my startup grows.”