AnitaB.org CEO Brenda Darden Wilkerson shares top takeaways focused on driving change toward intersectional gender and pay parity for the tech industry coming out of vGHC 2020.
Where to start? This was the question that opened the annual Grace Hopper Celebration several weeks back as it has been the topic leading millions of conversations on the pandemic, social justice, political unrest, natural disaster and more. In acknowledging the many trying moments of recent months, especially within the setting of a celebration, the focus became less about what one might expect to hear, and more about what needs to be said.
When it comes to achieving intersectional gender and pay parity around the world, let alone in the tech industry, figuring out where to start is an age-old question. It is especially difficult amid the passing of trailblazers like Fran Allen, Elizah Cummings, John Lewis, Katherine Johnson and of course, the notorious Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These are people who lived their lives to the fullest, and in so doing, made the world a better place for everyone.
Yet, while Justice Ginsburg saw great changes in her long life having entered law school in 1956 when women accounted for less than 3 percent of the legal profession in the United States, to today, with nearly half of U.S. law students being women, she never did see gender and pay parity in her lifetime.
If history is any indication of what’s to come next, women, and especially women in tech, could be in trouble. Our economies worldwide have taken a dramatic toll, and the financial impact will last much longer for women, including our ability to find work, keep work, and be fairly paid. If not careful, this will exacerbate an already challenging work culture that excludes those that need equity the most, and a dangerous financial outlook for women and families, as well as GDP.
The work of everyone in the tech community is part of a much greater fight than perhaps many realize. Women in tech have a responsibility to elevate themselves and one another as much as allies and those in positions of privilege have in providing infrastructure to establish equitable footing. Technologists of all backgrounds do not have the luxury or privilege of only focusing on individual career pursuits; the world and future generations need us to be and do more.
In living that mission, AnitaB.org shared results of the annual Top Companies for Women Technologists report – a national benchmarking program that identifies key inclusivity trends, looks specifically at technical employees and awards companies that are making the most progress toward equity – and honored New York Times, ADP and Ultimate Software as this year’s winners out of 51 companies and more than 500,000 technologists. At vGHC, the audience heard from Minda Harts, author of The Memo, Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, Marian Croak, Vice President of Site Reliability Engineering for Ads, Corporate Engineering and YouTube at Google, and many more who are fighting the greater fight through their everyday work. That includes allies like keynote speakers Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe – two powerhouse leaders who used their platforms to inspire millions, support women founders, and advocate for pay parity, equal representation, and fair treatment in health and wellness for all.
After an invigorating week at virtual GHC earlier this month where thousands of women technologists and leaders shared their insights, here are just three key takeaways for how this community can work together, partner with others and keep the momentum for change:
1. “Self-Made” is A Myth
The concept of being “self-made” or “doing it yourself” is a myth. Nobody has ever achieved success alone – especially in times of turmoil – and that’s a good thing. Strength and power comes from learning from one another. We must realize our own power and use it to change reality not only for ourselves, but also for others. Understanding that is but one of the strengths of our international community AnitaB.org creates year round.
2. Support STEM Students
One of the most critical points in a technologist’s career is at the very beginning. The pandemic especially has had an increasingly negative impact on students working to complete their degrees – especially in STEM, and especially those who were already marginalized the most. Encouraging the industry to become more inclusive starts with encouraging talent to become a part of it. One of the ways to offer support right now is through giving to AnitaB.org Tech Journey Fund to offer micro grants to students in need.
3. Stay Connected
Consider the potential energy of your desire to impact inclusive technology alongside that of other women technologists. We host GHC because we are, and will continue to be, a community in need of each other in an industry that is still on its way to becoming truly inclusive. In making our place known and accepted, with or without ease, we are moving and will move the needle. Follow up with your connections, take risks with your asks and claim the space needed to put important work on the agendas of others. Together we build a community of diversity in tech, and we contribute critical ideas and culture that will make inclusive technology a given and life-changing tech solutions a reality.
From partnering with companies to benchmark their progress toward inclusion, to connecting next generation talent with today’s industry leaders at events like vGHC, providing genuine support and investment to one’s self as well as others can genuinely impact the industry for good. That is the goal – because women technologists do things differently, and those differences will be the future of inclusive technology.