Women in Tech: Diversity and Gender Equity are Not Buzzwords

women in tech

“We know that diversity can sometimes be more uncomfortable because things are less familiar—but it gets the best results.”

~ Megan Smith, Engineer, shift7 CEO and Co-Founder

Diversity Hiring. Gender Equity. Equal pay for equal work. Work-life balance. Parental leave. Flex time. Black Lives Matter. The #MeToo movement. If you’ve been an armchair consumer of the news over the past four or five years, you might think that the great “rise up” has happened, and things are finally starting to move in the right direction. But when it comes to social change and equality for women, especially in the workforce, we still have a long way to go.

Diversity and Gender are Not Simply Buzzwords

Buzzwords abound these days, but diversity and gender are definitely not buzzwords. A 2020 McKinsey report found that gender diversity and ethnic and cultural diversity – especially in corporate leadership – results in impressive outcomes, “… companies perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees, and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion.” Workplace ethnic and cultural diversity also has a huge impact on a company’s success, with diverse companies outperforming the less diverse by 36 percent.

McKinsey also found that companies with more than 30 percent of executive roles filled by women were on-track to outperform male-dominated companies by nearly 50 percent. We’re not man-bashing, we realize that many men are our allies, and have made leaps and bounds in the IT field when it comes to respecting women in tech and recognizing their value. But facts are facts.

Consider these facts as we explore the numbers in the world of business, and especially in tech:

  • The ratio of men to women in engineering is 5:1.
  • Seventy-two percent of women in tech have worked at a company where bro culture is pervasive.
  • A whopping 78 percent of women in tech feel they must work harder than male coworkers to prove their worth.
  • Women in tech see gender bias as an obstacle to promotion 4X more than men do, and 39 percent see it as a barrier to promotion in 2021.
  • A majority of women in tech (72 percent) are regularly outnumbered by men in business meetings.

So why are we still failing to see significant change in the workplace overall, and in IT specifically? Why is everything moving at a snail’s pace?

Oh Canada

Even with those strong statistics practically screaming “Hire More Women!” progress remains slow. A report by Canada’s Future Skills Centre discovered that good intentions without actual initiatives with which to implement change means the needle moves slowly if at all.

And BIPOC face a particularly difficult climb up the corporate ladder, with few women mentors there to guide them. A survey of 48 of Canada’s largest organizations found:

  • Of women holding board seats, only six percent were women of colour.
  • Executives? Seven percent.
  • The all-important pipeline needed to nurture and support women as they grow into leadership roles? Only eleven and a half percent were women of colour.
  • And a shocking 89 percent have no Black women in the pipeline to the leadership level at all, and 91 percent have no Indigenous women.

That survey spoke to large organizations from many sectors, but sadly, those numbers hold up when it comes to the inequities faced by women of colour in tech.

Change Starts at the Top

There is much change still needed. And this change needs to happen at every level of the workplace. From the very conception of a position and/or job title, to hiring practices, corporate culture and all the way up to the C-suite. Traditionally silo’ed industries like technology have work to do to break up old-school ways of business, and stop rewarding departmental cliques which wield power and hold tight to information. It’s time to put a stop to outdated, biased attitudes and leadership practices pertaining to marginalized communities – whether that is because of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or lifestyle choices.

Today’s corporate leaders must have their hands in every aspect of their company, especially if they plan on making serious internal cultural changes as they embrace diversity. CEOs must ensure that every single part of their organization, from upper management on down, is aware of – and embracing – their vision. Words without actions mean nothing.

PLEASE STAY: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive

Now, let’s shift gears. It’s not all gloom and doom. All is not lost, but frankly, it’s clear that women need to keep pushing for more change to happen. And that was the impetus that inspired Kelley Irwin and Debra Christmas to write their book Please Stay: How Women in Tech Survive and Thrive.

Debra and Kelley shared many stories in the book about the challenges they faced during their extensive and varied careers in the tech field. And the fabulous “Tech Tribe” members have shared even more (seriously, the book is full of personal stories from women just like yourselves).

The reality is that women have always been at the forefront of innovation in the worlds of technology, engineering, computers, and coding. Ada Lovelace is considered to be the founder of scientific computing and the first computer programmer. And she passed away in 1852!

Fast forward to 2021 and the explosion of technology in every aspect of our lives, and we have an amazing opportunity to stand up, be loud and proud, and show ourselves and everyone else what women in tech look like, and sound like.

Start mentoring women including peers, and below you on that ladder, and do what you can to inspire young girls and women to pursue a career in IT, to dive into STEM, to get excited about the incredible opportunities just waiting for them to reach out and grab.

Let women of all ages know they deserve to be taken seriously. Show girls who will be the next women in tech that you can stand up for yourselves and for gender equity, be who you are, act how you want, dress as you like, and love whomever you choose. And that none of those things should be allowed to hold you back from achieving success.

Come and join us on Facebook to contribute your stories, your words of inspiration, your questions, and your thoughts. We would love for you to help us change the face of tech forever.