Women in Technology Redux
As a woman in technology, do you feel like you are in a losing a battle with an invisible enemy? Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, is the latest of many male technology leaders who has stuck his foot firmly in his mouth on the topic of female advancement.
His recent tone deaf comments at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, a gathering focused on improving the pipeline of women entering the technology field, raises questions on just how far women have come and what can be done to implement fairer and more effective hiring practices and encourage the careers of all talented people—not just 30-something male geeks.
The first step is to rebalance the college STEM curriculums so they encourage people who might have the talent, but not the home court advantage of growing up with the latest technology toys. A recent NPR Planet Money story identifies the unsurprising reason why 1984 was the peak year for women enrollment in programing majors—big hint, think heavily gender-biased computer gaming advertising.
The next area to address on the long road toward equal opportunity is to fix the incredibly broken hiring process. Technology job descriptions are by and large terrible with a laundry list of endless qualifications that no one person actually possesses. How many times are people who do in fact meet all the ridiculous hiring criteria listed in these wish list ads told that they are over-qualified?
To make matters worse, for anyone running through the hiring gauntlet, studies have shown that many women don't apply to posted positions unless they are 100 percent qualified. It is not because women are afraid of being rejected; it is more a matter of being practical and not wasting time on fruitless applications. Since 60 percent or more jobs are filled through networks of friends of friends, focusing on word of mouth opportunities will yield better results. As more women succeed in technology, the more effective networking becomes as a source of advancement and career growth.
Another surprising factor is how women are evaluated in their jobs once they land them. If you have been told that your work is top notch, but you have some nagging character flaws that you need to work on, do not take it personally. According to a recent study of performance reviews, it simply means that you are a woman. Of course this has the added effect of smaller raises and overall lower career earnings potential.
The good news is that the subject of women in technology is again part of the conversation. The upcoming Paris OpenStack Summit session on Team Gender Diversity – Working with the Other 50% promises to be a lively discussion on ways to encourage women and men to work together on a truly equal footing.
The takeaway from all this brouhaha should be that it is time to refocus our energy on making the technology workplace comfortable for everyone no matter what their gender, color, age, or orientation. It is time to finally make the technology industry a true meritocracy again, when the only way to succeed is to have the will and vision to build great products that the world needs and wants to buy.