The pandemic has impacted our lives in almost every way imaginable. An impact I was surprised to see was the impact on gender equality in tech! In the newly released 2021 Women in Tech Report from TrustRadius, 72% of women think gender equality showed no progress or got worse. In fact, twice as many women than men reported gender inequality got worse in 2020. When looking at only the responses from men and women executives 22% said things had gotten worse. 

In this third annual report, TrustRadius explores the current state of gender equality in tech. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, they added some additional questions to this year’s survey that focused specifically on the impacts caused by the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. What they found was that these impacts were not felt equally across genders*. 

The impact on women

For example, 21% more women than men report feeling burned out at work. Three factors contribute heavily to this disparity. 43% of women report they have taken additional tasks at work because of the pandemic, while 33% of men have taken on additional work. At the same time, almost a third of women have taken on more responsibility for childcare and the support of virtual learning for their children. 

The demands of housework also impacted women at a far greater rate than male partners. Over three times as many women report taking on more housework during the pandemic. 

CBS News reports that in the U.S. alone, 3 million women have left the workforce, major contributors to this include childcare responsibilities, burnout, and layoffs (which impacted jobs held by women at a higher rate than jobs traditionally held by men).  These all impact gender equality in tech. 

Leaders – You may be to blame

It’s easy to blame the pandemic, it did disrupt our lives tremendously…it is still disrupting our lives. However, we’ve been discussing gender equality far longer than COVID-19 has been with us. If you are in a position of leadership the fault may, in fact, lay with you. When you think of your priorities for 2021, where do you rank Diversity, Equality & Inclusion initiatives? 

Despite multiple studies that show the positive impact DE&I can have throughout an organization and to its bottom line, 76% of companies surveyed by Josh Bersin do not have formal DE&I goals. Peter Drucker was noted for saying, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” In the case of DE&I, if you don’t measure it, you won’t change it. 

Think about your own organizations. How many have executive bonus structures that have DE&I targets as a component? How many treat DE&I initiatives as an “HR problem” rather than an aspect of culture changes? Do you set hiring or interview targets for diversity but stop short of incorporating these initiatives into your leadership development programs and promotion processes? 

Actions you can take – today

I read someplace recently the word ally should be treated as a verb, not as an adjective or a noun. In other words, to be an ally takes action. What are some actions you can take today to help drive diversity, promote equality and create an inclusive culture? 

It may have been in the same article that I also read a person cannot claim the title “ally” themselves. They must be given the title by those they support with their allyship. It is in that spirit, I provide 9 actions you can take today, actions suggested not by me, but by women from around the world about how to improve gender equality in tech. 

1. Review your reviews

Lauren Herring, CEO of the IMPACT Group. Lauren recommends that organizations perform a blind review of their performance reviews. Identify patterns of subjective criticism as compared to positive subjective feedback and objective feedback. Studies show that women are more likely to receive subject criticism in performance reviews. After the review, provide training to your managers. 

2. Clean up your culture

Julie Kratz, of Next Pivot Point. In her book Lead Like an Ally, Julie provides more than 100 ways you can lead like an ally. One that jumped out at me was “Encourage people to be their full selves at work”. Too many of our colleagues do not feel they can be themselves. They need us as leaders to create a safe environment for them to do so. Embrace other cultures present in your offices, especially the cultures of those who are in the minority. 

3. Walk a mile

Michelle Redfern of Advancing Women in Business & Sport. Michelle has designed a great survey to access your privilege. She encourages all leaders to take the survey. Once you identify your positions of privilege, you can take action to support those who are not in a position of privilege. The survey will be eye-opening as you identify areas of privilege you have. After you complete the survey, Michelle will provide some additional resources you can use to improve your allyship. 

4. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. 

Orian Mendes of TSO. Orian talks of respect, beyond the respect for the person, the basic politeness of human interaction. Rather respect for the opinions, knowledge, and ideas that a woman brings to the table. All too often, women are not always given this. Respect is an important precursor in getting the best from anyone. Invite contribution from everyone on a level playing field. Women will participate fully when they know their contribution will be viewed as valuable and acknowledged. 

5. Listen and Act

Dimple Shah of SMC. Women often have to try so much harder to be heard. One of the biggest ways that men can be an ally is to not dismiss or be defensive when a woman is making a point that they do not necessarily agree with. Once they try to listen with an open mind, it often turns out to be as simple as a different perspective (diverse and inclusive thoughts lead to creative ideas). To tag along with the above, I strongly believe that “listening” has to be accompanied by action. As much as I believe that words matter if they aren’t converted into actions where applicable, those words don’t mean much.

6. Allyship comes on a scale

Angel Henry, IT Transformation Leader, Speaker, Author of Dents in the Ceiling The scale ranges from giving up a little amount of social or political capital to giving up a great deal. The degree to which you choose to step outside of your comfort zone will dictate how you show up as an ally. To start, men can perform subtle supporting acts every day by simply being mindful. For example, ensuring that an idea given during the team meeting by their female teammate is appropriately attributed to her or causally saying her name and then asking her for her opinion on a topic if it is observed that she is being talked over or interrupted. In summary, everyday acts of support can create a big impact, it just takes looking for them. 

7. Awareness

Meaghan Shaffer host of Dismantling Normal. We need our male allies to start with themselves, to explore their personal level of awareness around the lack of gender diversity in tech: what is their perception of and around this issue and how might they have been contributing to it, even in small ways? Next, start to pay attention to what is happening within your organization and continue to build from there.  I believe the constructive, organic action items women need from our allies all stem from an increased level of awareness.

8. Watch your language

Inma Casero Executive Vice President, Deputy Group HR Officer of Capgemini. The language used in corporate documents or during meetings – is it gender-inclusive or does it make some people in the room feel that they don’t belong there? I remember my first Chair position and the endless discussion when I refused to sign as Chairman. No one would have even thought to ask a man to sign as a Chairwoman! Using Chairperson looks obvious, doesn’t it? But it was not the case. 

9. Diversity AND

Also from Inma Casero Executive Vice President, Deputy Group HR Officer of Capgemini  My strong advice would be to ALWAYS think in terms of diversity AND (active) inclusion. One without the other means nothing. For instance, if you’re hiring employees from underrepresented groups, you’re doing a great job in boosting diversity in your company. But that’s not enough. Think about it: After being hired, do these people feel like they belong? Are they confident and comfortable bringing their true selves to work or do they feel the need to hide their unique traits and points of view? That’s where inclusion in the workplace matters. Simply raising the number of people from underrepresented groups that you employ – and ticking off those boxes – doesn’t guarantee that you’ve built a work environment of equal opportunities.

Commit to progress

Asking these women what allies can do for them has been an eye-opening experience for me. One of the responses included some additional thoughts that I felt needed to be shared with you. It came from Meaghan Shaffer, host of the podcast, Dismantling Normal (see link above). When asked what men can do to be better allies, Meaghan writes, 

“I actually put a lot of thought into this and my most brutally honest answer is, I don’t know.  So, what I really explored was why don’t I know.  In part I think this question might be hard for women to answer for a couple of reasons, three are top of mind.  1. because they have been navigating through the system that exists so long, they don’t always realize exactly what factors are working against them 2. Our society values the continuous push forward rather than pausing to explore an idea like – where might I need help in this area.  3.This would involve the notion of actually asking for help, which is hard for anyone to do, but for a woman who wants to and needs to appear ultra-capable, to appear she can “hack” it in a man’s world, asking for help may not feel like a valid option.” 

Being vulnerable

All these points stood out to me, however, number 3 really jumped off the page. There has been a lot of talk in 2021 about leaders needing to be vulnerable. One of the things that happen when leaders are vulnerable, our co-workers feel safer to be vulnerable themselves. It can create a very powerful culture. 

By the time you read this International Women’s Day (March 9) is past and Women’s History Month (March)  will be nearing a close, however, it is never too late to start making a difference. Join me in celebrating and International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month by implementing these actions to improve gender equality in tech today. Let’s set a goal to see an improvement of 22% in TrustRadius’ survey question for gender equality progress in 2022! 

*Answers from non-binary respondents were not statistically large enough to report. 

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When his teenage dreams of becoming a rockstar collided with reality,
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