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Failing at Gender Equality in Tech

I have been a professional manager, director, and CEO for about two decades now, and I have seen some great progress towards better gender equality in technology jobs worldwide.

Now if you look closely at my prior sentence you can decode a few key things about me. The first is that it is clear that I have had a lot of experience and training to write politically correct statements about such issues. Another observation could be, because of how I lead with my status (titles and time) in the industry that I am a white male. Perhaps you picked up on how I have worked worldwide in different cultures for large companies. Lastly, what you may not pick up on is that me writing that first sentence really pisses me off! Why? Because the words “great progress towards better...” reek of obfuscation, and after two decades we still don’t have this fixed! I will go further to say that most who have or have held my job roles perhaps feel the same, that this level of progress has failed women in technology jobs.

I will not get into all the ways we have failed because that would be a very long list, but I will list off the things that can be done right now if you have the true desire to fix the issues:

  1. Fix the pay gap: Regardless of what level of management you are in, underpaying somebody is unacceptable. Know what your people are paid, and escalate imbalances to make out of budget cycle pay adjustments to correct those issues.

  2. Get called out: No better way to put your own bias in check than to get called out for your own behavior. A large amount of gender inequality is about overlapping unrealistic expectations on both your women and male staff. This includes things that you might not even be aware of. So, create a safe way for your employees, and yourself, to get constructive feedback.

  3. Yield power and mentor: One thing that I have always loved about Agile development is empowering teams to get work done. Let people own their work, and use mentoring as a way to give coaching so others can grow.

  4. Let the whole person come to work: The male culture of turning off everything outside of work has to end. We need to accept that for a person to be great at our company that they can’t just leave home on the coat rack as they enter the workplace. Instead, we need to support our people to have a work-life balance that does not hold them back in their careers. We need to lower the bar for promotion from “Carl the workaholic” to something that is more realistic. This entails expectations that take into account reasonable workloads, outside of work needs, and keeping people within a healthy work-life balance.

  5. Be a role model: If you follow the items above, then you are on your way to becoming a good role model. It is about you inspiring others to live up to these ideals. Regardless of the position in your company hierarchy, a good role model is critical to the culture within a company. If you are in executive leadership, then this tip is not optional—it is your topmost job responsibility.

The list above extends not just to women but our entire way we create a diverse company. We have failed at this over the last several decades. The fix is only blocked by bureaucratic norms that may seem daunting, but moving forward let’s make National Women’s Day be not about the progress of equality but a celebration that we got this fixed.


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