#Personal Stories

Why The Exclusionary Attitude Towards Women In Tech Needs To Go Away

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Why the Tech world needs to change its approach and  fix its exclusionary attitude towards women in tech.

In 2021 women make up 34% of the IT workforce in India and the country is now almost at a 50:50 gender parity rate in STEM graduates.

Do we still need to have the “women in tech’’ conversations?

Nobody says men in tech!

And yet, the answer is yes, albeit nuanced.

While as a society we must strive to reach a point where such distinction serves no purpose, we’re not there yet. Even though women’s participation in any sphere of economic activity and innovation is not a novelty, from Whitney Wolfe Herd, Anjali Sud to Falguni Nayar women’s contribution to technology is ubiquitous, their role and potential are often overshadowed by an army of male names and voices. Every generation of women bears responsibility in changing this mindset starting from schools to leadership roles.

Gender-based narratives around ability

I have been fortunate in ways a lot of my non-male peers weren’t. I  grew up in a supportive family where almost all the women of my mother’s generation worked as teachers, doctors, biochemists, and more. I was never told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, I was shown how to do it. Interests and hobbies weren’t forced on me based on my gender. Resultantly, I never learnt to doubt myself in the context of gender. My upbringing instilled in me the courage to pursue my goals and the confidence that I had the capability to overcome challenges I may face. But I am painfully aware that I am the exception, not the rule. Young girls are still being subjected to tropes that suggest that girls are somehow inherently weaker at math than boys or the science equivalents of it. Women are still being told that they must choose better suited “easier” options while every year high school results prove that girls are just as good, if not better.

My upbringing instilled in me the courage to pursue my goals and the confidence that I had the capability to overcome challenges I may face.

The conversation needs to now evolve from challenges women face in the tech to how women leaders lead in these workplaces. People need discovery of more role models, more non-male leaders that prove repeatedly that success is a combination of caliber and courage.

Not enough qualified women

A popular argument attempting to support the lack of women representation in tech is that there just aren’t enough qualified women, the so-called pipeline problem. It fails to address the systemic ways women are often denied opportunities to pursue technical education and employment in the respective fields. Women often don’t have the same freedom to pursue education in the institutes men can, they have to stay closer to home because of concerns around their safety, or cultural ideas that dictate daughters should not be given “too much freedom”. If employers choose to recruit talent only from institutes that themselves are underrepresented by women, under the assumption that only these places produce qualified talent then the issue perpetuates itself. In the era of “the great resignation” where talent acquisition and retention is in upheaval all over the world, every organization needs to introspect to ask if practices such as these will support them in the future. The ones who are willing to challenge their own status quo and reach across to embrace talent from everywhere will be the ones to succeed.

Women often don’t have the same freedom to pursue education in the institutes men can, they have to stay closer to home because of concerns around their safety.

Diversity drives innovation and profit

 The higher proportions of participation numbers for women in technical education and the workforce are yet to translate to leadership positions. The road looks a little different for women. Often there is massive pressure felt to stand out in order to be heard however the resulting hypervisibility also drastically increases the professional cost of making mistakes.

If one were to even consider profit the sole motivation for enterprise, just imagine how much profit we’re losing out on as a global economy because of our exclusionary attitude toward half of the world’s minds. More importantly, women are needed in tech spaces for product design to be inclusive for the end-user isn’t always male. Women bring unique ideas to the workplace and help companies create better products.

Onus that is truly ours

My sincerest hope is that we find the courage to push past the narratives drilled into our heads that tell us that we are lesser or that our priorities should be different. Instead, we embrace our own abilities and stand up for ourselves. Especially in the world of technology, where the speed of innovation is so rapid that it almost equalizes the preparedness that anyone has for the advancements in AI or Robotics or IoT. Find mentors and allies, foster a network and support system – at work and outside of it – be specific and deliberate about what you are seeking from them. But most of all, believe in yourself. Deeply. You are, after all, your greatest champion.