Gender Equality in Tech: Words Are Not Enough

Working in the tech industry you might be blind to the reality of gender inequality. Your team includes both female and male designers, coders and managers and you are all working in harmony. However, things might not be that great for women in tech as you think — You might not understand or want to understand that there is a serious problem of gender inequality in your industry, and even your company. We live in a bubble, just look at the data and tell me there isn’t a real problem — Women only own 5% of all startup companies, they earn only 28% of computer engineering degrees, and Only 7 percent of partners at top 100 venture capital firms are women. When was the last time you had an open conversation with your female colleagues or your spouse working in the field about how she feels at work? when did you listened to the challenges they face in the industry? There is a great problem and opportunity here, and the first step to solving a real problem is to understand it.

I have been working in tech companies for a long time. I worked in a medical device startup that was acquired, started my own mobile startup and worked with entrepreneurs (men and women) as an advisor and mentor. I have never thought of women differently than men and worked with male and female engineers, software developers and product managers. I never really thought of it as a personal problem until recently and I spoke about it with my wife Aviv. Through her eyes and experiences I got to understand there is a problem here — one which is really worth solving.

But what do you do if you don’t have a personal connection to the problem? How do you understand it? The most important thing is starting a conversation and listening to your female and male colleagues about it. Ask questions, hear their stories, look at the facts. Try to observe your surrounding and see how many women are in your company? How many are in managerial positions?Look at the numbers, and be very aware to how they are treated in the company. Don’t look at a specific person but as a group. You might find that your company is great and treat everyone well. You might find that there is a problem worth solving and you can do something about it.

In the past year, Aviv and two of her friends Dalit and Shira, are working on a new venture, a new non-profit organization and community to empower women in the tech world — LeadWith. Her involvement and social entrepreneurship made me research and think a lot about the subject and eventually join them and volunteer as a mentor and designer.

A photo from one of LeadWith’s events — photo credit Hadas Eldar

Doing my research I was exposed to the fact that there is no equality between men and women today and not just in the tech world. Politics, Business and the Tech worlds are all dominated by men. The gaps are apparent in wages, positions, working hours and social acceptance. I think that those gaps are blurred by the success of very powerful women such Marissa Mayer, the former CEO of Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. However, their dominant character and powerful impact sometimes create the illusion that there is no problem.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time U.S. workers, in 2015, women earned 83% of what men earned. However, the gap in millennials is shrinking slowly. For adults ages 25–34, for every dollar men earned per hour women earned 90 cents. There is a gap but it’s smaller. The reason this gap persists is said to be caused by breaks women take in their careers for raising their kids or spend time with their families. Fewer men said they are taking breaks. This interrupts their long term career goals and earnings.

From Pew Research Center Analysis

The gaps are shrinking because there is an open conversation about gender equality and women empowerment. Our society starts to open and we see more women in leading positions and understand that inequality might cause impediment of our economy, technology and policy. There are more young politicians such as Canada’s Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, Barak Obama and now the new Prime Minister of France Emmanuel Macron who speak publicly about feminism and inequality. Unlike many politicians and public figures they are taking real actions to make a change within their communities. Trudeau and Macron created an equal governments which include ministers of 50% men and 50% women.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about gender equality

The change is accelerated bold women entrepreneurs who are building a movement through founding organizations that empower women to become entrepreneurs, to create, invent and lead the world for a change. Organizations such as Lean In which was founded by Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook, SheWorx and LeadWith are all non-profit organizations founded and led by women for women — Men should join this movement.

What do these organizations do? LeadWith for example run several initiatives and programs to solve the problem. They hold meetups on a diverse range of topics which allow their community to grow and connect. They also started a mentoring program to help women who are seeking advice about career paths, and building products and startups (I am fortunate enough to mentor on the program). And recently they joined forces with Wix and created an accelerator for women entrepreneurs. Recently, they even ran a hackathon for young high school talented girls to help them build new products and solve problems but most importantly to give them confidence to change and educate them for greatness.

Shira, Dalit and Aviv in one of the LeadWith events — photo credit: Hadas Eldar

Attending the events and mentoring women in their community, I got to feel amazing energies, women who want to change the world and make an impact. I got to be a part of the conversation, listening and understanding women and how they feel. And by being a part of this I also get to be a part of the solution

Why should men care about gender equality?

Men (and women) should invest huge efforts to reach gender equality and we have the data to show you why. Women should be equally represented and compensated in all sectors: politics, business, academia — everywhere. If you want companies or organizations to succeed you should both hire more women and aspire to increase the number of women in managerial positions.

A report by Catalyst states that companies with most female they hired on average resulted in 42% greater return on sale, 53% greater return on equity and 66% greater return on invested capital.

A Gallup report states that there is a correlation between the percentage of women in a business and the company success. The report suggests that women encourage the growth and development of their employees and provide positive feedback on a regular basis. These actions are extremely valuable for any business as it helps maximize employees engagement and commitment. The report state that women tend to be more compassionate, nurturing and patient than male colleagues. This is evident in different leadership styles

In another study done by the Peterson Institute For International Economics and EY analyzed results from 21,980 global, publicly traded companies, in 91 countries from various industries and sectors. The study shows that companies with at least 30% of women in leadership positions, or the C-level positions, adds 6% to net profit margin.

Link to the full PIIE paper: https://piie.com/publications/wp/wp16-3.pdf

If you want your business to be profitable you must care about gender equality. And if this is not enough, just see the next video and listen to the Founder of Alibaba about why women are important to his business.

Alibaba’s Founder Jack Ma about Women and their contribution to Alibaba’s success

Why should men take action?

The first reason why men should get involved more is that words are simply not enough — in order to build things you have to execute and not only think of an idea. Like in entrepreneurship, having an idea for a product is 0.05% of the job. In order to make a change for a more equal world, your words are 0.05% of the work. If you want to make a change and make an impact to bring equality to this world, you must execute. You need to get your hands dirty and take action. You can join a non-profit, you can initiate a program at your workplace and you can push actively to hire both great men and women — equally.

The second reason is that getting involved in an organizations like LeanIn and LeadWith gives you perspective about the problem women face in tech and deepen your understanding of the problem. It gives you an opportunity to listen openly to women and men talking about the gender equality issue — it creates a conversation. You might think that there is no problem in startups and the tech scene because your team includes two great female programmers with whom you work like your male colleagues. However, being a part of such an organization will expose you the bigger picture and data. It will reflect that your team has 2 female programmers but 12 more male programmers. It might show you that your case is not an example but the exception, or that you ignore that it is in disguise.

Lastly, you will see how powerful, talented and professional women are. After attending these sessions you will have no doubt that women are equal to men and can impact the industry just like men if not more. You will embrace the fact that men should need women and women need men to build new products, solve problems and lead technology forward— we need each other.

What Can Men Do To Make a Change?

A few months ago, on women’s international day, I saw a great number of posts on Facebook and Twitter of men praising their wives, daughters, mothers, managers to be the the greatest persons, powerful and successful. They all shared a photo and told stories of how strong the women in their lives are. This is the first step to help women empowerment. However, it is not enough. Such posts are great initiatives and create great engagement and awareness in our society. But men should go beyond the awareness phase and start taking actions.

The real challenge is to get men to move past the passive awareness phase and take more actions. Men should join LeanIn, LeadWith, volunteer and invest their time changing and solving the problem of gender equality. They should push their daughters, wives and friends to develop their careers, build companies, and pursue higher education. They should speak out and stand up for equality. Make clear that it is a part of their core values.

LeadWith Mentoring session

Our mission on this journey is to reach gender equality — it’s a joint mission for men and women, it’s not women’s problem. We should together own it and create a reality in which men an women have equal rights and opportunities as entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists etc. It would be really interesting measuring our success and see the insights if more men join in. Could we improve our chances to reach gender equality if more men join? we should try and see.

To join the LeadWith Community on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeadWith/

Feel free to connect with me on Linkedin: https://il.linkedin.com/in/illaigescheit

If you wish to ask questions, start a conversation and tell your story please leave a comment.

More by Illai Jacob Gescheit

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