The natural human tendency to gravitate to “people like oneself” creates a vicious circle where all “not my type” get excluded, creating a diversity dilemma. Considering the scale and scope of the problem, I will limit myself here to gender issue which is probably a significant portion of the diversity issue worldwide.
Ironic that while six African American women mathematicians working at NASA in the 60s successfully maneuvered the world’s first electrical computer (ENIAC) to help put the first humans into space, women continue to be a minority in tech.
As you are reading this, take a moment and reflect in all honesty. My guess is that 90% of you think you can’t have it all. So, while the society is a huge limiting factor in the un-gendering of the tech industry, we women are equally response for keeping the bro-code alive.
What this requires is just more thought in re-engineering ourselves. How? By constantly disrupting our mindsets and pushing our boundaries. Here are my two cents:
- Don’t Downplay Your Own Significant Achievements: Often women are asked to be in the shadow of their husbands, partners, children etc, where their accomplishments always need to take a backseat. And women do this willingly. They are often hesitant to promote their own projects and downplay themselves because they don’t want to come across bashful or worry about being seen in a negative light. Change this, NOW!
- Work on your personal Brand: Women are great at creating relationships, but they often tend to shy away when it comes to leveraging these relationships, as they do not want to be seen “using” their relationships for self-serving means. Newsflash: There is nothing wrong with it. Allies or network are a key source of visibility in an organization. So, while focusing on developing expertise or doing a perfect job is critical, women should ensure they retain enough bandwidth to build a strong ally network and showcase their unique personal brand through it
- Share and Ask: Women or not, your ideas are valuable, your questions valid and any concerns legitimate. Talk about them often. If you don't speak up, you won't be heard. If you're not heard, your grind to the top will just be more arduous.
- Build Emotional IQ: As a woman, you are often judged by emotional intelligence and not necessarily by results alone. Remember in the movie Interstellar, despite being an astronaut, Anne Hathaway gets ridiculed when she suggests the crew head to Planet Edmund because – love. It didn’t matter she was right in the end. Lesson – prepare your arguments, especially for important meetings, and back them up with facts and data, and have your own emotional quotient that makes your arguments unique.
The extra emotional labour women must take up is exhausting indeed, but it is not easy especially when you are outnumbered. However, if there’s any industry that can pioneer a better gender diversity, it is the tech-industry. Things will change when women are represented in equal measures in leadership and in board rooms in higher numbers. But we need to get there first.