Number of women in tech ‘disastrous’: Wikipedia founder

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The proportion of women working in technology is "disastrous" for the sector, Wikipedia's founder told CNBC.

Jimmy Wales criticized the industry at a time when major tech companies continue to come under fire for the lack of diversity in their workforce.

"For me it's such an important thing we all encourage (more women) in an industry that frankly is disastrous in its proportion…I think that's unfortunate," Wales told CNBC in an interview during London Technology Week at the launch of Tech.London, a website for start-ups in the U.K. capital.

The Wikipedia founder said that while women face obstacles in all sectors of work, especially in tech, the issue often starts at school.

"In tech there's the additional problem that at a certain stage in school, girls are not encouraged to pursue the same courses that boys are and that's unfortunate. At some stage I think it's something we have to maintain focus on," Wales said.

A number of Silicon Valley giants have come under intense pressure in recent times to boost the number of women in the workforce, but many are struggling to make progress.

For instance, some 42 percent of LinkedIn's employees are female, but this number drops to 18 percent when only technology jobs are considered.

Elsewhere, 30 percent of Apple's total workforce are women, but again this falls to just 20 percent when looking at tech jobs within the company. At Google, 30 percent of its employees are female and this drops to 18 percent for those in tech roles.

Wales pointed to the likes of Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer and HP CEO Meg Whitman as good examples of women in leadership positions, but stressed that the problem was at grass-roots level.

"You're never going to expect to see enough female board members or CEOs if you're not at the very earliest stage bringing people in to the pipeline," Wales added.