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Reflections on International Women’s Day in a tech company

As part of International Women’s Day, we’ve been talking at Invotra HQ about women in tech (or lack thereof) which is a topic we also discussed on Monday as part of our SE Digital Leaders Salon.

It’s a subject I have a lot of feelings about, although they’re not always entirely clear, so I thought about organising them via the medium of the blog.  I don’t know all the answers, but I do want to keep the conversation going. One of the key tenets of the day is about being bold for change.

A lack of women in tech – whose fault is it anyway?

A video that sparked this conversation in our office is this:

I love this. Well, I hate this. The fact that in 21st century we’re still having to talk about this. It probably doesn’t help that so many of the tales we still tell are based on stories written by two (Grimm) brothers, Hans Christian Anderson and co, with (albeit dubious at times) morals, or that at time of writing of said stories we were living in a pretty unenlightened time, but there’s a whole can of worms right there which I do not feel knowledgeable enough to comment on.

You may also be familiar with the Bechdel Test… it’s an issue throughout our culture, our media.

Does it takes a society to raise a techie? From gendered toys to female role models, from telling girls they’re pretty and boys they’re smart, it starts so young, which is a subject echoed in our salon on Monday.

From pre-school, to teachers, parents, careers advisors to employers – there’s a proverb about it taking a village to raise a child. It sounds as though we need a shift in society to change our attitudes for everyone to make tech careers a viable option.

There’s a great list of things we can all do at https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Resources.

Speaking from a position of privilege.

With 40% of Invotra’s board as female, and representation across our organisation I’m in a stronger position than many tech companies to talk about this, although this post is not our official stance, merely my views from a personal position of privilege.

You hear about people saying “check your privilege” online. But what does that even mean? Here’s an article talking about that on the Guardian.

I was incredibly lucky to have supportive parents (and, with a nurse (and occasional mechanic/gardener) dad, parents that wouldn’t necessarily fit the traditional gender model).

I was lucky to go to a good school in Surrey.  In a well-off part of England. An all-girls school, which meant that we had fewer things to worry about when picking our subjects at school, although I know when I chose to quit physics A-level I left maybe 3 girls in a class studying it. A few more were still doing Maths with mechanics. But the traditionally male-dominated subjects were barely studied. I don’t think politics was even an option.

One of my best (female) friends is an engineer. I wanted to be an engineer, before realising how much stronger I needed to be at Maths.

For me, personally, I didn’t think there was an imbalance. An unfairness. That women are placed at a disadvantage. That’ there’s a gap in pay. I thought that was something long-gone, a relic of a backwards society.

But there are oodles of statistics, examples, anecdotes, cold hard numbers to say we’re not even close to that in so many instances. There are lots of resources available at https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Resources 

Conditioner – not just for your hair, but between your ears too

I think to a certain degree we’ve been conditioned to explain it away to ourselves. You can almost hear the little voice when you read a headline “oh, but it’s not that bad – it’s just because women take time off during work to raise a family, or it’s their own stupid fault for not speaking up more – I don’t have a problem myself”.

I used to think that the word feminist was a dirty word. Something that other crazy sour-faced people did. I was misled. I actually now feel pretty strongly about the fact I am one. I am a feminist. Even if I’m nowhere near as eloquent about it as awesome, bold, outspoken people like Caitlin Moran.

So what now? Is that it til next year?

This year’s themes of International Women’s Day are

“celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women”

So let’s celebrate! I saw a wonderful collection of women in tech at http://www.wired.co.uk/article/international-womens-day-2017 

and:

“declare bold actions you’ll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world”

Let’s be bold! At the salon on Monday, we met an interesting organisation called SATRO which aims to do just that! I’m personally going to look at how I can get more involved to help raise the profile of the women we have in tech within our org, and also in my position as marketing within a tech company to help inspire more to join us!

There are plenty more suggestions at https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Resources