Well, we made it—we’ve officially hit the one-year mark of the pandemic. I’m not sure if that deserves applause, a good cry, or a trophy...maybe all the above? Having tiptoed through chaos, we found innovative ways to navigate the cards we were dealt while strengthening connections to ourselves, friends, and communities.
Beyond serving as a milestone for the pandemic, March celebrates Women’s History Month. Nested within the month is International Women’s Day
, offering a collective pulse on the state of things for women. As a young woman in technology, I continue to find myself looking for equal and more diverse representation in an industry that’s historically been dominated by men. I’m continually impressed at how innovative my peers are, not only in their quest to develop or reimagine technology but in shaping the narrative around gender equality.
Typically, International Women’s Day serves as a time for celebration, allowing the community to reflect and amplify how far we’ve come. On the heels of a landmark year, it was evident the pandemic posed a threat to the progress of equal representation women have been working towards. In a survey conducted by accelerateHER
, more than 57% of respondents working in tech companies noted the pandemic stunted this growth, creating a significant setback in gender roles and equality in the workplace.
Despite the unanticipated hurdles and calamity surrounding the past year, women and allies continued to push forward, advocating for representation and cementing their place at the table. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was incredibly fitting – “Choose to Challenge.”
“A challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.”
How can we challenge today’s standards and forge a path to equality in the technology sector?
Molding a Cultural Transformation, Together
From a young age, my mother engrained the adage, “Don’t be a doormat. Advocate for yourself—if you don’t, who will?” into my DNA. At thirteen, I certainly didn’t appreciate my mom dispensing more advice (teenagers know everything after all... cue the eyeroll), but as I establish myself in my career and among my cohorts, the significance of that sentiment has never been stronger.
Looking at my own growth and exposure in technology, I can see a transformation underway. Early on in my career as a solutions engineer, a field largely dominated by males, there were many interactions where my experience could’ve been different had it been for a more inclusive mindset. I was involved in meetings where I didn’t command or receive the same respect as my male counterparts, due in large part to my gender. In several instances, both my age and gender were brought into question, despite those attributes holding no influence or impact on my skills, delivery, or credibility.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed the presence of women expand and the dynamic in the tech field evolve, as more of my peers embrace allyship and advocate for diversity. My experiences aren’t unique. In fact they’re shared by many other underrepresented colleagues and friends, but this is exactly where the call to challenge and change the status quo is so critical.
Reflecting on 2020 and my place in the technology community, I’ve found my mother’s words and the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day are cut from a similar cloth. As we look to embrace the challenge and heed the call of advocacy, we can create more opportunities by:
Elevating and educating others:
Encouraging other women to take leadership roles or lead internal discussions—seeing a greater female presence can help drive change internally but can also inspire others looking in from the outside. Elevating more women, recognizing their accomplishments, and offering or attending educational outlets, like networking communities or Women in Tech discussions, can help keep the momentum moving forward.
Actively listening to other women’s experiences and ideas can morph how we advocate for equal representation. Creating safe, welcoming spaces to engage in transparent and empathic conversations will help flip the script and avoid conformity bias.
As we look inwards and outwards, find opportunities to bring more women to the table. To instill confidence, heighten exposure, and boost representation, find your voice by participating in or establishing employee or regional inclusion groups. There is power and resilience in numbers.
As Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, said at NC Tech Association’s Women in Tech Summit last fall, “Every voice matters, and everyone belongs.” Women and those who are underrepresented in technology should be championed every day, not for just one day or month. I challenge each of you reading this to step back and ask yourself, how will you raise your voice to support and collaborate with women so we can tackle these hurdles together?