There’s a giant gender gap in tech.

Hammocks. Gourmet food. Fitness classes on site. Free Shuttles. What can’t you find on the campuses of tech giants these days? Women. There’s a giant gender gap in tech, and it’s posing a problem for the industry.

The generally accepted figure for the number of women in tech is 30%, but if you look at the actual percentages of women holding engineering roles, that figure shrinks considerably. Let’s look at some of the giants in the industry. At Facebook and Google, women make up about a third of the workforce, but only 16% of technical jobs at Facebook and 18% at Google are held by female engineers. At, Twitter non-technical positions have a near equal gender split, but only 10% of engineering jobs are filled by women. And if you look at the stats for the entire continent of Europe, only 7% of engineers are women.

This lack of women in tech isn’t just a corporate responsibility issue, or a women’s issue; it’s actually hurting companies’ bottom lines. As Toptal co-founder and COO Breanden Beneschott explains, addressing the gender gap is “not just diversity for the sake of diversity. If men and women are equally intelligent, statistically speaking, then out of the smartest ten people in the world, five should be male and five should be female. Thus, if your team is anything less than an equal balance of men and women, then your team is probably not the best it can be.” The numbers back Beneschott up. Studies show that gender-balanced teams outperform all-male or all-female teams, so much so that making the transition from a homogenous team to a gender-balanced one can increase revenue by 41%. And, companies with at least one woman on the executive board receive valuations that are 64% higher than those who have an exclusively male leadership slate.

It’s pretty simple. Teams that don’t have women aren’t as creative or productive as they could be, and this is a problem stifling the entire industry.

It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly why there are so few women in tech, but according to Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani, popular culture and a lack of knowledge about the industry are two major deterrents. From TV shows like Silicon Valley that promote the stereotype that an engineer is a t-shirt clad guy to Forever 21 tank-tops that read “allergic to algebra” across the chest, girls are getting the message that tech is a man’s domain. And they’re taking note. In Middle School, 74% of girls express interest in studying STEM fields. By the end of High School, however, only 0.4% intend to pursue computer science degrees.

What this means is that closing the gender gap is going to take a whole lot more than stronger recruitment efforts. There simply aren’t enough female engineers in the job market to reach anything close to parity right now. Closing the gap requires companies addressing the root of the problem, which begins in the classroom and schoolyard, not at job fairs.

The good news is that tech companies are launching innovative initiatives to build a stronger educational pipeline to support young women interested in STEM fields. In October, Toptal launched Toptal Scholarships for Female Developers, which is awarding 12 aspiring female developers $5,000 to be used toward furthering their educational and professional goals, and one year of one-on-one weekly mentoring with a Toptal senior developer. Toptal is partnering with The Franklin Foundation for Innovation to grow the program. Toptal is encouraging applicants of all educational backgrounds to apply by making a meaningful open source contribution on Github and writing a personal blog post about it. The contest will run through October, 2016.

Etsy and Intel are also providing educational support, partnering with Girl Develop It and Girls Who Code to help more girls gain access to phenomenal resources to build their STEM skills. Etsy also launched the Etsy Hacker Grants, which provides scholarships to women so they can attend the Recurse Center, a 12-week programming intensive retreat in New York.

It’s going to be a long road to gender-parity, but these companies are leading the way by supporting women both in the classroom and once they have received their degrees. By launching these initiatives, they’re spearheading a solution to a decades old problem and in the process, they’re gaining a competitive edge.

Provided by Guest Contributor:

Grace Fish is a writer from San Francisco currently working at Toptal. She graduated with a degree in History from Princeton in June 2015, and has been living as a digital nomad ever since.

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<p>edu|FOCUS is a blog produced by The Franklin Foundation for Innovation. Our community focuses on America’s education system and what we can do as a nation to fix it.</p>

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