Earlier this week The Alantic interviewed Bethanye Blount, a female senior software engineer at Second Life. Blount shared a peak into her world on what it is really like to be woman working in tech. Blount includes examples of blatant lack of respect, sexual harassment, and lack of career advancement due to being a woman.
Blout explained how after 22 years of being in the technology space she still feels sorry for the women who are coming after her who, still, have to witness the harsh realities of being a woman in a male dominated space. Back when she first started her career, Blout made decisions that were easier for her and helped her succeed which simply meant, not acknowledging the fact that she was a woman. She never spoke about gender or the lack of inclusion with men.
I admire Blount for being honest during this interview, seeing that I myself, am a woman in the technology space. The experiences that Blount encountered are some that many other women including myself are fighting with and against every day. These encounters include unwanted sexual advances, witnessing talk about how hiring women and people of color is considered “lowering the bar,” being interrupted, and treated like less than a male equivalent, not to mention being denied access to opportunities our male counterparts are easily given.
That being said, there is no doubt that the technology space continues to lack effort in creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. Women make up less than 30% of the technology space, and women of color only make up 2%. There have been conversations among companies about how to make environments more comfortable and inclusive for all genders and races, but needless to say, most companies have yet to set up actionable items to get started on completing this task.
Workplace conditions, lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in their careers, are reasons that women continue to leave the technology space in high numbers.
A perfect example of effort to change the demographics of the technology space are Pinterest co-founders Ben Silberman and Evan Sharp, and their Diversity Chief, Candice Morgan. In 2015, Pinterest put out a call to action to hire more women and people of color to technical roles within the company. Pinterest says it has more than doubled the number of people in the company from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds to 7%. Pinterest also increased the hiring rate of engineers from underrepresented ethnic groups to 9% from 1%, surpassing its goal of 8% for 2016! They have proven that creating a more diverse workplace can be a lot easier than it looks.
The most effective ways to create change and increase productivity within big companies is to set goals that are measurable and public and hold yourself as well as others within the company accountable.
Some action items that helped Pinterest create this change are:
- Continuously talking about why diversity matters
- Hiring senior leadership from diverse backgrounds
- Focusing on how diversity improves the recruiting process
- Finding the value in why diversity and inclusion are important
The technology space has a lot of work ahead in order to make people of all genders and races feel included. More and more, women like Bethanye Blount are coming forward and holding these large companies accountable, with the hope that we will soon create change across the board.