It’s a tricky time being a woman working in tech. Did you know that 30% of women who work in tech (so one in three) have been told they were only hired for a particular role because of their gender? And that 51% of women have been told that their gender could prohibit their career? 🤷 It’s baffling that folks will confidently make these types of discriminatory comments – and yet, they continue to do so.

In a 2018 survey conducted by Adrian Hoffmann and Jochen Musch of the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf in Germany, it was revealed that 37 per cent of participants held prejudiced views towards women in powerful roles. What’s worse is that the research also found that 45 per cent of men considered women to be less qualified for leadership roles than men. This type of bias is almost expected in today’s working environment, as it has been ingrained within society and encouraged by the patriarchy. According to LeanIn, Men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38%. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level.These are understandable stats if women in senior roles are being challenged with comments such as “for a woman…”, “when do you plan to start a family” or “you should smile more”. It can get exhausting having to constantly fight your corner. 

An article published by CW Jobs in 2019 documents that “ 63% [of women] have overheard or been on the receiving end of ‘can I speak with your boss’ and over half (51%) have heard the backhanded ‘you are too pretty to work in [this industry]’ regarding their role. Shockingly, (58%) have overheard or been asked if their mood was related to their ‘time of the month’.” these are shockingly high percentages, but not surprising. Most women feel caught off guard when they receive a comment like that, then feel gaslighted later on when they try to address it with seniority. 

It is a common notion that the tech industry is powered by testosterone, as many women feel like they don’t belong in such a male-dominated industry. It is important for organisations to challenge this and the status quo, and to open up a more inclusive environment where men and women can feel represented and respected. 

Activities to try with your team

  • In your next team meeting or all hands. Before concluding a meeting, check in with each member. Make sure everyone has been provided with the same opportunity to comment or contribute
  • Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. If a male colleague makes a sexist comment or remark, what can you do to challenge this type of terminology and mindset? Would you say something to your colleague right there and then, or pull them aside later?
  • Think about your last 1:1. Think about the terminologies you use when discussing projects with your team or seniority. Are they unknowingly sexist? Do you repeat phrases male colleagues have said or use outdated terminologies such as “girl” when addressing or referring to a female colleague?

New habits to make a difference

  • If you are a senior leader, encourage the company to set gender representation targets, which are then reviewed every quarter. This will encourage a better understanding of the gender divide within the organisation.
  • Encourage hiring managers to have at least 50/50 gender split at offer stage for open roles.
  • In meetings, encourage people to consider their listening/talking ratio. Encourage men to listen more and speak less as research shows they tend to interrupt women significantly more than they interrupt men.
  • Take note of any gender stereotypes that might be being applied to assess work capabilities and review performances. Refrain from using terms such as “too emotional” or “too bossy”.

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