Guiding a seismic shift in tech: For women, it’s an inside job

2018 is on track to be a year of great cultural change—and that change is increasingly being driven by women. The women’s marches of 2017 lit the fire, and #metoo drives awareness and accountability across virtually every industry. The 1970s feminist movement that helped define change in our mothers’ generation is coming back today with an unprecedented power—and it’s time we brought the tech industry aboard.

Forbes reported in 2017 that women today are leaving the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men. Some of this maps to traditional gender roles and our acceptance that “something’s gotta give” in cases of the logistical needs of young families, our sick and aging parents, etc. For others, the decision to leave the industry may be a temporary but practical one while we complete a graduate degree.

But for many, the choice to leave an industry with so much innovation and opportunity is made due to darker influences. Gender bias, pay inequity, and the explosion of bro startup culture has signaled the death knell for the careers of some of the smartest, most visionary women in the industry. Maybe you or someone you know has already made the decision to leave because of this; or maybe you’ve just been thinking about it. We’ve all been touched by it in some way or another, and it’s clear that the tech industry is ripe for some major shifts.

Taking charge of tech culture

Nobody’s going to hand industry change to us on a silver platter, that’s for sure. We’ve got to take an active role in rethinking systems, processes, and mindsets.

First and foremost, we’ve got to lead. We have to consciously and strategically work to create an environment of diversity as our organizations grow. We must model inclusion as we work with our managers, direct reports, and partners. And we have to remain adaptable, creating flexible situations that allow our colleagues to contribute, thrive, and succeed on their own terms—through job sharing, flextime, virtual teams, or other options.

What you can do today to support change

There are a lot of incremental changes you can help to create every day, starting today. Here are a few to think about:

1.    Speak out – Make your voice heard in the industry. Talk about the effects of discrimination at events, whether as a keynote speaker, panelist, or simply by posing questions from the audience.

2.    Seek male allies – Bias against women is more than just a women’s issue. We need the help and support of our male peers to bring about real, permanent change at all levels of the industry.

3.    Be a role model – Like it or not, we’re all role models. At any given time, we have chances to serve as coaches, mentors, and sponsors, and it’s important to give back. Coach a colleague through something you’ve already lived out; or mentor a bright, bushy-tailed recent grad to help her get a foothold in the industry. And always seek out opportunities to sponsor rising stars with access to programs, organizations, or other groups.

4. Give back – Coach, mentor, and sponsor other women and men. At different points in our career, we need one or more of these to help us get to the next level. Coaches can provide in the moment critical advice and show us the right path and how to reach our potential. Mentors teach us the secrets to getting there and how to navigate hurdles along the way. Sponsors help us get promoted by continually supporting our rising star across the organization and industry and backing our bid for that new title or high-profile project.

EVENT: Building a Growth Culture of Mobility & Inclusion Learn more and register

Thursday, March 29 from 6-8:30pm at Adobe San Francisco

Ready to get started? Women Speak Tech invites you to join us at our free upcoming event, Building a Growth Culture of Mobility & Inclusion, to speak-up and meet inspiring women and men that have built mentoring and networking organizations within their companies from the ground up. We’ll be featuring insight from our guest panelists on how to shift decades-old norms of diversity and inclusion.

To lead with focus and inclusion takes confidence, advocacy, mentorship and sponsorship. Fast growth typically results in knee-jerk responses. Cultivating inclusive leadership affects who we hire and promote, who we mentor or sponsor, and how we speak, listen and act. Join our experts from Adobe, Nest, Visa, Linkedin, Box and Cisco to learn what it takes to swim upstream. Speakers include Shiney Rossi, Engineering Manager at Nest; Varsha Kanavar, Chief of Staff, Go to Market at Cisco; Katie Juran, Sr. Director, Diversity & Inclusion at Adobe;  Suzanne Fletcher, Fund Manager at Stanford Start-X; and Molly Heekin, Sr. Director of IoT Digital Solutions at Visa.

See you there!

 Jill Talvensaari

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