Why are there so many female major tech whistleblowers? Here are the findings from the study.


Why are there so many female major tech whistleblowers? Here are the findings from the study.


In the past few years, a number of high-profile technology industry whistleblowers have gained attention. The majority of the time, they have been exposing business practices that work against the public interest. For example, Frances Haugen exposed Meta's use of personal data without consent, Timnit Gebru and Rebecca Rivers confronted Google on AI and ethics issues, and Janneke Parrish voiced concerns about Apple's hostile work environment.

There are a lot more female whistleblowers than there are women employed in the tech sector, it would seem. This calls into question whether women are more inclined to come forward with information in the tech industry. It's complicated, to put it simply.

Whistleblowing is frequently used as a last resort to gain society's attention when issues cannot be resolved internally, or at least not by the whistleblower. It speaks to the whistleblower's organizational standing, influence, and resources as well as the openness, communication, and values of the company where they work. It also speaks to their fervor, frustration, and dedication to the problem they want to be resolved. Do whistleblowers have a stronger commitment to the common good? a greater virtue? fewer powerful inside their organizations? Are these potential reasons why so many women are raising awareness about big tech?

We, a computer scientist and a sociologist looked at the nature of big tech whistleblowing, the impact of gender, and the consequences of technology's place in society to answer these concerns. What we discovered was intricate and fascinating.

A story about virtue

Studying whistleblowing is challenging since it only covers the surface of this complex phenomenon. Whistleblowing is typically private or anonymous. The perception that women are more selfless, concerned about the welfare of the public, or morally upright than men seems to be supported by the idea of female whistleblowers.

Take into consideration a claim made by the New York State Woman Suffrage Association in the 1920s to support granting women in the United States the right to vote: "Women are, by nature and training, housekeepers. Let children participate in maintaining the city's cleanliness, even if they only do so occasionally. In other words, granting women the right to vote would contribute to "cleaning up" the mischief men had caused.

More recently, the idea that female police officers are more resistant to bribery was used to justify the switch to all-female traffic enforcement in various Latin American cities. In fact, the UN recently recognized combating corruption and inequality as two of the most important global development priorities.

According to research, women are more often than men linked to lower levels of corruption in politics and business. For instance, research demonstrates that corruption decreases in countries with increasing proportions of female elected officials. Additional studies demonstrate a direct causal relationship between electing female presidents and decreasing corruption, even though this trend partially reflects the tendency of less corrupt states to more frequently elect women.

Women are more ethical in business dealings than men, according to experimental studies and attitudinal surveys, and a study using information from actual firm-level transactions has confirmed this. Businesses run by women are also directly linked to a decreased frequency of bribery. The socialization of men and women into separate gender roles in society probably accounts for a large portion of this.

Nothing concrete, just hints

The possibility that women are being socialized to act more morally raises the question of whether women are actually more inclined to come forward with information. Although complete information on who reports wrongdoing is difficult to come by, researchers attempt to answer the topic by questioning people about their attitude toward reporting wrongdoing in surveys and vignettes. The gender effect in these investigations is not conclusive.

When they can do so in confidence, women seem more inclined than males to report wrongdoing. This may be connected to the possibility that female whistleblowers experience more retaliation than male whistleblowers.

A further component is at work in the sphere of technology. In terms of both numbers and organizational influence, women are underrepresented. The "Big Five" in technology—Google, Meta, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft—remain disproportionately composed of white men.

At the moment, women make up around 25% of the technological workforce and 30% of the executive leadership. Although women are now common enough to avoid being tokens, they frequently lack the resources and insider position necessary to affect change. They also lack the corruption opportunity gap or the power that occasionally corrupts.

In the interest of the public

People that are marginalized frequently don't feel like they belong or are included in groups. The benefit of this exclusion is that those individuals might feel less need to act morally when they observe misbehavior. Given everything, it is likely that a mix of gender socialization and the outsider status of women in big tech contribute to the situation in which women seem to be the majority of whistleblowers.

Whistleblowing in the tech industry can be the result of a confluence of issues involving public interest and gender. There are no clear and decisive findings, and in the absence of hard data, the verdict is still up in the air. But both of these shortcomings are exemplified by the prominence of female whistleblowers in large tech, and these whistleblowers frequently work to increase diversity and lessen the harm big tech causes society.

Technology has a much greater impact on people's lives than any other corporate industry. Big tech has a significant role in determining whether privacy, safety, security, and welfare are upheld or compromised since it develops the tools that people use every day, defines the content that the public consumes, gathers data on its users' ideas, and more.

However, the public finds it challenging to assess the individual hazards and societal impacts of technology due to the complexity, proprietary intellectual property rights, and widespread use of digital technologies. The corporate cultural firewalls of today make it challenging to comprehend the decisions made while creating the goods and services that so greatly influence people's lives.

Big tech, in our opinion, needs transparency and a stronger emphasis on the public interest than any other sector of society. This emphasizes the significance of the bravery and dedication of today's whistleblowers.

Previous Post Next Post