IT People, Stop Helping Women! (IWD 2021 Special)
Information Technology is a male-dominated environment. Some suggest that it is because women are not interested in tech-related topics as much as men.
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“Never make a big decision without A woman at the table,” says Leonard Lauder—a billionaire who runs a cosmetic company. But sadly, that is not the case with tech companies. And here are what I believe to be its most essential aspects.
An Ode To Gender Equality in the IT Industry
Information Technology is a male-dominated environment. Some suggest that it is because women are not interested in tech-related topics as much as men. Others, however, think that there must be something wrong with the system or the way companies acquire their workforce.
According to the latest UCAS data, “34% of women who studied Computer Science achieved 'high' passes in 2020.” Only 26% of men gained the same results. So, not only are women not less interested in technology, but they are also doing better.
Blaming the gender inequality in the IT industry on women is nothing more than an excuse. We created a male-favoring system and left no options for females to be a part of it—unless they adopt.
Unconscious bias training or mentorship training are companies’ latest efforts to change their workforce instead of their systems.
As Alison Wynn, a research Associate at the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab, suggests, “Individuals alone cannot eliminate structural inequalities in the way people are hired, evaluated, promoted, and rewarded.”
The obvious fact is that the lack of gender diversity in the tech field is systematic.
Back in the 1900s, famous and respected people like William T. Sedgwick believed that women are not made for voting. Fast-forward a hundred years; some well-known IT leaders suggest that women are not made for tech. (How shameful is that?)
Why We Need To Talk About Inequality
I am not a fan of sentimental speeches. I do not believe that women need our help to thrive in computer science—or any other field. However, I am sure that the IT industry needs women’s support to thrive. Here are two simple reasons why talking about gender inequality in the tech industry matters.
Tech Companies Are Losing Money
The latest studies by McKinsey show that companies with diverse management teams are 25% more likely to outperform their competitors (ROI-wise). So, the more you go towards a male-dominant environment, the weaker of a competitor you become.
Diversity Is a Potential Competitive Advantage
Tech companies spend millions of dollars on R&D, looking for achievable competitive advantages. Funny thing, not many of them invest in gender equality or I&D (Inclusion & Diversity) programs. McKinsey’s studies prove that sex and ethnic diversity are some of the cheapest ways to improve a company’s performance and revenue.
Such approaches are also considered marketing tools in the modern world. That is so because consumers are more attracted to companies that care for humanistic matters.
In 2015, Doritos created rainbow chips in support of the LGBTQ+ community. As a result, they got thousands of free mentions, promotions, and media attention. Plus, they increased their profit coming from their targeted audience, young millennials.
I know Doritos is not an IT company, but my point still stands. One move towards gender, ethnicity, belief, and orientation equality results in hundreds of steps towards your business goals.
And Why You Should Stop Helping Women in IT
I am not bragging about how men developers/coders should lift their female coworkers. That has never been the case. By contrast, I want all the males in the industry to stop “helping” others—because no one asked for it. Here is why I believe such women-focused movements are not valuable.
1. There is Nothing Wrong with Women
Some believe males are better at IT, so they need to carry their female coworkers' weight. But that is only a ridiculous idea. Why would a company want to add extra load on its so-called ‘better workforce’ to have more women around? (Makes no sense to me.)
The thing is that female CS experts are no different from male ones. The problem is that they do not get the chance to present their capabilities.
No one is asking you to find some average developers and hire them just because they are women. That would be the most stupid thing you could ever do—excuse my language.
What gender equality suggests is to omit the sex factor when looking to hire people. It is about giving an evenly balanced chance to all genders to express their capabilities.
So, again, women do not need your help to become better IT experts. They need a fair environment that allows healthy competition.
2. It is Not About Changing Individuals
I see some companies focusing on their employees, trying to teach them gender equality basics. But my question is, “What about the systematic unfairness in the industry? Who is going to fix that?” Such businesses are usually proud that they are helping women.
However, what they are doing is to repeat the fundamentals of human rights to people who are working under the opposite conditions. Well, let’s face the music; that is not going to work out.
The progress starts the moment you and your company realize that you are the ones who need some help.
Of course, I am not against any additional gender diversity-oriented programs in the industry. However, I share the same ideology as Alison Wynn. She believes, “Unconscious bias training and mentorship programs can certainly help employees identify areas of bias and work toward changing them. But organizations shouldn’t stop there.”
The Right Way To Move Towards Equality in the Tech Industry
I have seen how gender inequality in the IT industry negatively affects the projects’ outcomes in the past 20+ years. So, here is what I believe to be the right way to deal with it—if we want to improve our field.
Step #1: Acknowledge the Problem
The first step in any problem-solving method is acknowledgment and recognition. I have friends who still want to argue whether there is a gender gap in the industry or not. You will not progress any further while you still doubt the issue.
Step #2: Shift the Focus
As the title of my post suggests, you should stop helping women in IT. You should concentrate on the systems, rules, regulations, and conditions that prevent them from contributing to your projects. I highly recommend you to read the Harvard Business Review’s 2019 take on the issue called “If Women Don’t Apply to Your Company, This Is Probably Why .”
Step #3: I&D Over Disorganized Diversity
Hiring people with diverse ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, or gender is not a success factor. You still need to focus on finding the best fit for your team—regardless of such elements. However, if you want to become an A-level player, you should concentrate on I&D rather messy diversity-oriented plans.
Inclusion & Diversity refers to practices that promote engagement through creating equal chances for every gender or ethnic.
That is key to success in implementing gender equality in the IT industry.
Final Thoughts; Let’s Do Our Part
International Women’s Day is a good reason for us to look back and see what we have done regarding gender issues. Even the most advanced countries are struggling with gender gaps in their society. And that is because patriarchy has always been out there. So, it is about time to wake up and face the problems.
As IT people, we all have to do our part to move towards an equal industry for all genders and belief systems.
We should stop thinking that women need our help to thrive in Computer Science—because they have proved us wrong.
So, no sex-based advantages for no one. That is what we need to improve the tech community.
With that being said, happy #IWD2021 to all the hardworking women all around the world.
Please, let me know what do you think about gender inequality in the IT industry in the comments section.
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