Over the last 3 years of being in the industry and during more than 2 years of involvement with Women Who Code, an international non-profit organization that focusses on bringing more women into STEM fields, I have come across hundreds of women – women who are either rocking it in the technology and science world, or women who are striving towards making a mark in their workplace and otherwise. Every single woman’s story is interesting, their life experiences are different, their aspirations are varied and so are their struggles.
Women have been revolutionizing the world of computers and technology since the very beginning of the technology era. They have played an instrumental role in the evolution of computational engines and the modern day computers. The list is never ending. Starting from Ada Lovelace who developed the algorithm for the very first analytical engine built by Charles Babbage to Grace Hopper who created the first ever compiler to modern day Ruchi Sanghvi who was the first female engineer at Facebook, women have time and again proved that technology is indeed their cup of tea.
However, not everything is as good as it seems. It’s no hidden fact that there is a huge lack of recognition and opportunities for women in the today’s technology world. Despite the fact that the list of women achievers and role models is quite long, there still is apprehension or rather discontent around accepting women as equal players as men in the technology space. And this doesn’t just end with women. There are other groups which are still majorly underrepresented in the STEM world, including the LGBTQ community, differently-abled, people from non-tech backgrounds and people of color. But I wouldn’t refrain from getting into details of that because the reasons are many and varied, and it would require a completely separate post to point out some of those reasons. However, this article holds valid for any underrepresented group, if not fully, to a large extent.
As many of you would have already read or heard or seen, there are “Women in Tech” campaigns that many organizations around the world have been running lately focusing on building a strong pipeline of women in the STEM world. For those of you who don’t know what these campaigns are, “Women in Tech” campaigns are usually hiring campaigns by tech companies focused at hiring more women into the companies. There’s no denying the fact that these campaigns have certainly made a huge impact, as many statistics would tell you, but it has also slowly turned into marketing gimmick for a lot of organizations to present themselves in good light.
Let’s get real here, shall we? There’s much more than just hiring that the companies will have to do in order to ensure that there’s not just high intake of women into tech companies, but also a high representation of women in senior positions. Women in tech shouldn’t just be about attracting more women towards your organization, it should be about creating a conducive environment for them to thrive. Women should be encouraged based on their passion towards their work, their dedication and their strife to not only become better at what they do but also bring laurels to the organization they are involved with.
There are certain very important aspects that organizations will have to start focusing on if they really feel empathetic towards women at workplaces. Some of these are listed below, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Make women feel like they belong and are important to the organization. Make them a part of your DNA. Listen to them, empathize with them and create avenues of growth for them. I am not talking about hand-holding, I am talking about not pushing them back every time they want to take up an opportunity.
- The need for mentorship cannot be emphasized enough. Senior women should come forward and be role models for the younger women. Back in college, there’s so much I wanted to do, but I didn’t have many mentors around me and that I feel was the biggest hurdle between me and my aspirations. Now that I have got to know so many amazing mentors over the last 3 years, I know how important it becomes for you to have someone who you can confide in, share your aspirations and dreams with and look up to to keep yourself going on even in the hardest of times. Having a mentor as well as career sponsor is an absolute must have.
- As they say, too much of anything is bad. This holds true for the “women in tech” phrase as well. The repetitive attribution of one’s success to just their gender also becomes detrimental not just to them, but to the entire community. Success, and failures for that matter, should be attributed to the person. You don’t want that outstanding woman to feel that what she has got isn’t because of her capabilities and skills but just because she is a woman.
- If you look at the statistics from the last couple of years, the numbers around diversity at workplaces are showing positive signs, at least for some industries including software and technology. Organizations should embrace it and appreciate it. We sometimes have to stop the relentless ranting around the problem.
- One thing that’s highly detrimental to the success of women is the constant ask to prove themselves. There is absolutely no need to prove themselves all the time. Trust them that they could (and they would!) do a good job and give them the same space to fail as a man would receive. A failure shouldn’t mean the end of career for a woman. Very often, most of the women who leave the industry or ones who stay but don’t take up opportunities are the ones who don’t have a safe zone and a support system in case of failure.
- Do not keep pointing out the statistics again and again and again. There are some of the most amazing women out there who are revolutionizing this world – be it tech, science, banking, retail, finance or any domain for that matter. Talk about those women and their achievements.
- There are many grass-roots organizations, like Women Who Code, Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code and so on, who are focusing on women in STEM fields, giving them an opportunity to redefine their career. If you are really keen on inclusivity, don’t make it a marketing gimmick. Go beyond visibility and do things that really matter. Visibility will follow automatically.
We are seeing more females in executive positions than ever. They are running some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies, generating billions in revenues. Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi, Ursula Burns, Chanda Kocchar – these are just a few names of women who are challenging the status quo and establishing a thriving ground for other women to get inspired and build a successful, rewarding career.
The relentless ranting hints at exclusivity, breaking the very foundation of the ask of women in tech campaigns – inclusivity. “Women in Tech” isn’t about quota or any special treatment. What we need is equality and the same consideration that any skilled individual would deserve. We need the same appreciation and rewards for our work that would be given to a man. We don’t want us to differentiated on the basis of our gender, but be judged for our work. We don’t want to prove ourselves anymore. We have been doing that from god knows how many decades. So let’s try to shatter this façade and push for real inclusivity and diversity at our workplace.