Women and the Future of Work – International Women’s Day
As another International Women’s Day passes, let’s reflect on why these days exist. Beyond the “why,” we also must ask what we can actually do to build a more equitable reality for women and the future of work. IWD provides a day to honor women around us, as well as women beyond our immediate surroundings. If you’re deep into the work of uplifting women within and beyond your circles, I hope this blog is a helpful touch point for resources. If you’re brand new to this sort of thing, then I hope this can be a launch point. I think most of us are somewhere in between. Regardless, we all have work to do. In the case of Voodle, this starts with our current staff but also requires that we stay abreast of the state of equity in the tech sector at large.
Women In Tech
At a glance, data suggests the present state of women in tech is… not great. Beyond the numbers, however, are stories of resilience and allship. Excellence and creativity. Glimpses into a more equitable alternative. Check out roundups like this one from Global App Testing of women who changed the tech world and a few highlights of women who are changing this world today. Pushing the tech sector towards equity when it comes to women and the future of work requires awareness of what is happening now. It also demands disaggregate data and understanding of how women of different races, ethnicities, ability, and more experience today’s workplaces.
As of 2018, the percentage of women in tech was at a mere 25%. More recently, TrustRadius released their 2021 Women in Tech Report. According to the study, “78% of women in tech feel they have to work harder than their coworkers to prove their worth.” The study makes critical distinctions between the experiences of white women and women of color in the tech world. “Women of color are 27% less confident than white women” that they will earn a promotion in the next 2 years. Additionally, 37% of women of color explicitly felt racial bias held them back from likelihood of promotion. The full deck can be viewed here. It also includes specific actions to take to improve life for women and the future of work. Mentorship, leadership opportunities, and flexible scheduling/location topped the list.
We Have the Data… What Now?
Start where you are with what you have. You will never be an expert in everything. Don’t expect yourself to suddenly be an expert in someone else’s lived experience – let alone how to improve it. However, you can build habits to improve your awareness of how people different than yourself experience the world. That can start simply with building meaningful relationships with coworkers. (You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in order to respect and listen to them.)
Increased understanding and empathy better equips us to make choices in the workplace that uplift others. Choose to prioritize learning about the experiences of those around you – and those who are not. If women are not in the room, ask why? Research and personal stories from women beyond your social circle or co-workers are readily available online with the click of a button. Taking personal responsibility of our own ongoing education about others’ experiences makes us better teammates and better community members.
Think Through the Intersections
The term “intersectionality” applies a critical lens for our conversation around women and the future of work. Coined by lawyer, philosopher, professor (and much more) Kimberlé Crenshaw, it refers to “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Put simply for the workplace, it means people are not simply one facet of their identity. We experience the workplace through not just in light of our genders, but our races, ethnicities, ages, disabilities or whether or not we’re members of the LGBTQ community as well. Remembering to think about these intersections when trying to build a more equitable work place better equips us to not leave people out. Transformative technological developments need people from a wide range of lived experiences on the front lines.
Women and the Future of Work
In the end, I believe a more equitable reality is possible for women and the future of work. That said, it requires more than seasonal marketing campaigns and buzzword happy platitudes. It takes concrete action. It takes lifelong learning. Beyond International Women’s Day, beyond Women’s History Month, I hope we continue to build more effective systems of learning and accountability into our places of work.
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