Fortune Magazine published an article called Why women leave tech: It's the culture, not because 'math is hard'
TL;DR version: We treat them like shit and are surprised when they leave. So, basically women leave tech because they have self-respect.
Good for them. Shame on our industry.
A few weeks ago I suggested that there aren't many women in tech because "women have good taste". Every woman that I've said this to has agreed... or at least laughed. However it is an uncomfortable laugh. A laugh that indicates that it is something we all know, but don't know how to talk about.
Let's talk about what we can we do to change the industry's culture to not suck. The first step is identifying the (to be polite) off-putting behaviors.
Here are my top 3:
Interrupting people when speaking: I think most men don't realize how often they interrupt women and not men, or that they interrupt everyone but since men interrupt back it is ok. Let's give men the benefit of the doubt and assume that they interrupt everyone equally... why would anyone want to work in such an environment? Men put up with it, women have better taste.
Assumption of competency or lack there of: A friend recently pointed out that as a professional services engineer, she has to prove herself to each new customer. She gets questioned until she demonstrates competency. Her male coworkers are assumed competent until proven otherwise. Her male coworkers confirm they see this behavior; it is not imagined. I've always felt that it is a character flaw of mine that I'm slow to trust people's technical skills until I see evidence. Do I do this with women more than men? I'm not sure. Lately I've worked at companies with brutal interview processes so I can just assume that by being there I should assume competence. That said, having to prove oneself every day is insulting and demoralizing. Why would anyone willingly put up with that? Industries with better gender balance don't have this problem. Women have better taste.
"Help" in the form of criticism: You can't make a technical proposal without the immediate reaction being everyone listing all the reasons why it won't work. What a shitty culture we have. Taking a moment to first say what you like about a proposal is a basic courtesy IMHO. In defense of the critics, I think engineers often feel they're being helpful by by pointing out the trouble spots in a proposal so that the person can engineer around them... as if the person hasn't thought of these caveats already. (ProTip: Its always easy to say why a proposal might not work. Showing a demo avoids this and starts the conversation beyond a debate over if something is possible.) Imagine how much more enjoyable a workplace would be if people acted collaboratively and cooperatively? Women have better taste.
I could list more reasons, and more anecdotes but these are the three cultural defects that I see as the most pressing.