This Bathroom Line Photo Points to a Larger Gender Issue in Tech

September 13th 2016

A recently posted bathroom line photo from the technology event TechCrunch Disrupt is taking Twitter by storm and nodding to a larger gender issue within the tech industry.

Rena Pacheco-Theard, the co-founder of e-learning company Prepify, tweeted an image on Tuesday showing two very different bathroom lines at TechCrunch Disrupt. The men's line is flowing out the door while the women's bathroom is totally empty from the outside:

While Pacheco-Theard's post has tongue-in-cheek elements, it points to some not-so-pleasant truths about working in tech as a woman.

Sheryl SandbergTechCrunch50-2008/Flickr - creativecommons.org

It's no secret that tech is a male-dominated field. Last year, CNET reported that women make up just 30 percent of major tech companies. Deloitte Global estimates that women will hold fewer than a quarter of information technology (IT) jobs in developed countries by the end of 2016.

In 2014, several major tech companies released their gender and race statistics in a move intended to create transparency:

Tech companies gender statsSalon - salon.com

Tech companies gender statsSalon - salon.com

"Gender imbalance in IT has been recognized as an issue since at least 2005," Deloitte Global wrote on its site. "One might have expected some improvement since then, and perhaps even faster change since 2010, when there was a surge in articles about women in technology jobs. That has not been the case."

According to Deloitte Global, contributing factors to this problem include fewer women pursuing tech at the college level, a gender pay gap, and a sexist boys club culture in the field. A survey published earlier this year titled "Elephant in the Valley" suggest the boys club culture has been longstanding issue for women in tech. After surveying more than 200 high-powered women in the field, the findings revealed that 90 percent of participants reported witnessing sexist behavior at company off-sites and/or industry conferences. Sixty percent of participants reported experiencing unwanted advances.

"After a colleague made a (VERY unwanted) advance, I did not complain to anyone, but I ensured that I never was alone with him outside an office setting," an anonymous woman wrote in the report. "Not complaining was a mistake. The colleague later criticized me in a review as 'not putting in enough hours.' If I'd filed a complaint, his spiteful slap back at me would have been put in context. But I wouldn't have known whom to complain to or how."

Pacheco-Theard isn't the first to call out the tech gender gap issue through a bathroom line photo. Last year, CNET editor Dan Ackerman posted a similar image from the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco:

This is apparently so commonplace that Slack engineer Erica Joy was amazed to see a line for the women's room at another tech event last year:

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