13. Juli 2017 / Update 29. April 2018
Am 28. April 2018 waren Brigitte und Monika von We Shape Tech Bern als Speaker an den Uphill Conf zu Gast mit einem Vortrag zum Thema «Does Diversity Really Matter? - A Visual Journey Through Diversity» . Der Vortrag wurde als visuelle Reise durch die Diversität gestaltet, mit einer fiktiven Persona, die ihre Karriere einmal in MORDOR durchläuft und einmal in der UNICORN World. Brigitte hat dazu die Visualisierungen erstellt.
Den Talk haben die beiden in Englisch gehalten, deshalb ist nachfolgendes Transkript ebenfalls in Englisch verfasst. Dazu gibt es das passende Poster zum Download.
We both are women in tech with several years of experience. For this talk we want to look back to our last years in IT. Not everything has been as easy as you may think but it wasn't that difficult either.
Having been part of the gender minority for years now the question still remains «Does diversity really matter? Or shall we just forget about this topic and accept it the way it has been?».
Anyway, we'd like to share with you some of our favorite stories we came along. All names and characters are fictious - all similarities with reality are completely intentional though ;-).
Imagine you know a woman who has been working in IT for 15 years. Just imagine. Let's call her Sarah. Completely fictional name. Let's go back to the beginning of her career when she considered working in IT.
Once upon a time Sarah came across her first tough business decision: she had to choose a career path. She remebers her thoughts back in the days:
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), 57 percent of professional occupations in 2015 in the U.S. workforce was held by women but only 25% of the computing workforce was female and even worse, only 17 percent of the Fortune 500 CIO positions were held by women in 2015.
The data in Switzerland is even worse. Only 13% of positions in the tech industry are held by women.
According to Girls who Code the situation was better in 1995. The number of women computer scientists decreased in the last 20 years by 11 percent and their prediction says that it will get even worse in the future if we don't do anything about it. By the year 2027 the number will be down to 22 percent.
But let's go back to Sarah. How would it be in a galaxy far far away, where diversity isn't an issue anymore, where everything is possible, unicorns exist and agility actually works... ;-) How would her career choice look like there?
Questions about «Boys»- and «Girls»-Jobs aren't known. Getting a robot for Christmas is cool for girls, being a «Techie» as a woman isn't weird and a career choice is only a matter of passion. No stereotypes have to be considered.
How far away are we from that place and time? Is is really so unimaginable to get there some day?
No! According to Girls who Code a majority (66%) of girls in the age of 6 to 12 years show an interest in computer science. So that would be a good starting point!
Unfortunatly, almost have of them lose the interest when they get older and by the time they get to collage, only 4 percent say they are still interested in tech.
Back in MORDOR, Sarah decided to give her career in IT a shot - contrary to all external advisors.
On her first day at university she started hearing voices.
Do you think that was just her imagination? Or is there some truth to such stories?
Dice’s 2012-2013 annual salary survey found that the top five tech occupations for women and men differed significantly, with «Project Manager» as the top position for women and «Software Engineer» as the top position for men (Kawamoto, 2013).
Meanwhile, what do you think happenes in the Unicorn World?
In the perfect unicorn world, Sarah goes to university. There are almost the same number of girls and boys in the class. Even the professors are equally devided between men and women.
And the best thing is: Should Sarah miss a class someday, her absence won't be immediately noticed since she is no longer the girl in class.
In Switzerland - we are knwon for talking and being slow sometimes - the number of women in STEM majors at university increased by about 4 percent in the last decade, according to the Federal Statistical Office
Meanwhile in MORDOR.
What do you do after university? Let's find a job! There are plenty of jobs out there in IT but finding the one not searching for ninjas or geeks has taken a while for Sarah. After finding the desired position, getting the job was not that hard. After all, what company nowadays can afford not having a woman on the team... sigh... quotas... sigh...
According to Anderson et al., 2013, 76% of all women in the STEM field consider themselves as «VERY AMBITIOUS». 70% are «EAGER TO BE PROMOTED» to the next job level.
When asked «Do you hope to be promoted or advance to the next level of your career in then ext three years?» 85 percent of women in tech say YES, only 6 percent say NO and 8.7 percent are unsure.
When asked «Do you aspire to hold a C-Suite or senior management job someday?» 62 percent say YES, 13.6 percent say NO and 24.5 percent of women in tech are unsure.
Back in the Unicorn world...
After enjoying a few highly interesting and rewarding years at university Sarah starts her job hunt. There are so many appealing opportunities that she has a hard time choosing. And after (womenlead) interviews (not just HR women, but tech women) it is even harder.
Once she starts her new job, finding her place in the team is not even considered a challenge. She is there because of her skills and she is measured by equal standards to her male peers. Isn't that amazing?
According to a study by the Institue for Family Studies IFS the public does not agree with the idea the «men are better at maths and science than women». 68 percent of the public thinks men and women have equal abilities in those fields.
The majority of the public (86%) thinks, that men and women are equally intelligent.
When it comes to honesty, 29% of the public thinks that women are more honest than men and even more distinct are the data when it comes to organizational skills: 48% of the public thinks that women are more organized than men...
Let's see how Sarah is doing in MORDOR.
After a few years being ignored in all promotion rounds she sees herself good enough for the next level in her career. So she goes to her boss and asks for a promotion.
Be aware that - opposite to her male collegues - she has to ask for a promotion in order to even be considered.
According to study by Comparably young women in tech (ages 18-25) earn 29 percent less money than their male peers for exactly the same job.
Another study done by Hired shows that men are offered higher salaries than women for the same job at the same company 63% of the time.
Well, I would suggest: Ladies, go ask your bosses for a raise ;-)!
Since she fits so perfectly in her team and she as no pressure proving herself continuously Sarah can concentrate on her skills and duties from day one. Therefore she gets considered for a promotion in the first round.
Nobody asks «Why?». Instead everybody says «Why not?».
According to themuse.com there are 187 Million women worldwide currently starting or running a business enterprise.
Women entrepreneurs begin with about 1/8 of the funding of male-owned ventures.
AND: women-operated venture-backed companies have 12% higher revenues than those operated by men.
Back in the days when Sarah just turned 32 (with a big celebration) she remembered...
Changing jobs every once in a while is considered a good thing if you are persuing your dreams. But changing your job as a 32 year old women is close to suicide... Despite the fact that companies are not supposed to ask the «pregnancy» question it is usually still the elephant in the room, where as the military career for men is still considered normal.
«Don't you want to start a f....ramework?» or «What's your opinion on inheritance?»
Based on a study by Hewlett et al. 2008, Women in SET (MINT) report experiencing significantly more pressure to put in «face time» and to be «available 24/7» than women in other sectors.
By now you probably know how Sarahs Unicorn World looks like when she turns 32 right?
As in MORDOR, changing jobs every now and then is still considered a good thing. But opposite to MORDOR, there are only unicorns - no elephants. No questions about family planning, no awkward pregnancy questions, no forecast for your next 10 years are required. Only your skills and your experiences are considered - just as for men.
Furthermore, the maternity/paternity leave is equal for men and women...
In the 8 largest tech companies female tech positions are growing 238% faster than male equivalents.
In 2014, Fortune 500 companies hat 87 female CIOs (17.4 percent) whereas in 2012 there were only 61 female CIOs. This is a growth of 43 percent.
After working for several years in cool projects and with big clients Sarah did get pregnant and she did start a family and she did enjoy a maternity leave.
And after that, guess what, she did come back after only four month. The company was soooooo considerate with her situation at home that she only got easy projects without much responsibility because everybody knew, she would leave again anyway. And even if not she is a mother now, she has other things to do...
A study shows that 56 percent of women in tech positions leave companies in their mid-career. But the main reason is not that they start a family, but for the following reasons:
After more-than-just-four-months maternity leave Sarah comes back to work and she restarts the work the way she left it. Do you know there are already some «Unicorn-Countries» in Europe where you can share your maternity leave with your partner?!... Incredible.
After her time-out Sarah manages to work part time sharing her job with somebody else. A different personal situation but the same responsibilities. Nobody asks her if she would like to work less. Because flexibility is higher rated than presenteeism.
A study by Hewlett et. al, 2008 shows, that women who get sponsored at work, for example with a mentoring, appropriate working conditions and so on are more likely to return to work after their maternity leave.
85 percent of mothers who were sponsered at work stayed employed where as with the unsponsored women only 58 percent returned.
Some years later Sarah comes to another crossroads in her career. She gets her first executive opportunity. She takes the opportunity but she knows it will - again - not be easy. After all there must be something wrong with her, she looks more like an assistant, doesn't she? Hear the irony in that?
According to a study from The Observer women hold only 11 percent of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies...
We are getting close to the top of Sarahs career.
After years of working hard, continuous education, being a working mom, ... Sarah becomes Chief «bla bla bla I like it so much» Officer. And that's all. No questions, no pain, no weird looks... Just normal. And remember
BOSSY is the new SEXY!
When asked whether being successful in a high-paying career or profession is one of the most important things or very interesting in their lives, 66 percent of young women answered YES, whereas only 59 percent of young men said yes.
Back to reality... where do you think we are now? More in the MORDOR world or more in the Unicorn world?
When preparing this talk we realised that it is a lot easier to remember the MORDOR moments in our lives than the UNICORN moments. But they are there as well. We think it really depends on the topic you are talking about - sometimes we are a bit more in the Unicorn world and sometimes a bit more in the MORDOR world. But we think there is still a long way to go.
For us it is important to say, that we don't feel like victims in this world. We managed, and we still do it. We like being part of our teams and we like our peers. But what we are saying is, that it might be even better on a personal AND a professional basis if we had more diverse teams.
Furthermore it is important to notice that it is not just the gender minority we have to talk about. The same counts for ethnicity, color, religion, ... and so on.
We often hear «Diversity is not a men's problem, women are just not interested enough in tech». We disagree to a certain point - after all, we chose to be a part of the tech world ourselves and we strongly believe that it is absolutely important to include all kind of people in the development of our future, independent of gender, age, color, culture, religion, ...
Altough the diversity issue has been worked on for several decades now, it is still among us. But we are all part of the problem - and the solution.
But how can we foster diversity?
As we both said, not everything has been so bad. Actually we haven't been in Mordor in our lives. But our unicorn moments have been scarce. Let's imagine a - hopefully not so far in the future - world where everything is possible, unicorns exists and agility actually works....