It’s Women’s History Month – Let’s Make Tech More Inclusive
By Deborah Keltner
We may be preparing to wrap up Women’s History Month 2022, but we aren’t done working to make tech inclusive. Women’s History Month provides education on how women helped shape the nation and empowers children by introducing them to historical role models. It also inspired us to share practices that make our company and our industry more inclusive to women.
While the month is over, our effort to bring gender equity to our company and our industry is ongoing.
Women have played a key role in the advancement of technology and computer science since its creation. For example, computer pioneer Grace Hopper devised the theory of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the creation of COBOL. And while women are an ever-growing part of the tech community, inequality in pay and opportunities persists.
No matter your gender, here are ways every person can make our industry more inclusive and better for women:
As a professional
- Mentoring. It’s important that both men and women mentor women in technology. Letting women and girls know that they have a future in technology helps to increase the number of women pursuing careers in computer science. This pillar of support can be offered through professional groups or one-on-one. If you are a woman in tech, making yourself visible will inspire other women and girls. And men in tech should evaluate who you seek out or offer mentorship to, so you can make sure you are doing so equally.
- Educate yourself. Read books and blogs for, by, and about women in tech. This reading list has some great recommendations. Follow Women in Tech on social media – searching the hashtag #womenintech can get you started.
- Speak up. Point out non-inclusive behavior, even if it comes from someone above you in the leadership chain.
- Evaluate your professional circles. Do you find that your network isn’t as diverse as you’d like? Start building professional relationships with women and people of color so your network looks more like your community.
As a manager
- Eliminate bias in the hiring process. Look for ways to attract qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Our recruiting team uses several techniques to make the process inclusive to women, including anonymizing applicants, monitoring job descriptions for gendered or exclusive language, encouraging applicants to include their personal pronouns, and setting system reminders to be inclusive while reviewing applicants or completing interview feedback.
- You can take the Parity Pledge here.
- Visibility is a serious challenge faced by many women. Women are often tasked with “invisible work” – such as day-to-day tasks and maintenance work – and therefore get credit for being diligent, but not strategic. Managers should make sure that everyone has equal access to strategic projects and that everyone is equally tasked with invisible work.
- Address pay gaps – female tech workers make anywhere from 10% to 33% less than male counterparts, depending on seniority level. Ask about equity when setting the pay scale for a role so you do not perpetuate unequal pay.
- Amplify women’s voices and do your part to ensure women are heard. To amplify a colleague who has shared a good idea in a meeting, speak up, name and credit the woman, and repeat her idea.
- Use Inclusive language. Favor gender-neutral terms whenever possible. Here’s a guide:
|Replace This||With This|
|Guys||Folks, friends, team, y’all|
|Ladies, gals||Women, folks, people, you all, y’all, friends|
|Man, mankind||Humanity, humankind|
|Grandfathered||Legacy status, preexisting|
|Right-hand man||Counterpart, indispensable|
|Man hours, manpower||Person hours, engineer hours, level of effort, hours|
|Housekeeping||Maintenance, cleanup, overview|
|Male or female connectors/ fasteners||Connector and receptacle, plug and socket|
|Man (verb, “I will man the desk”)||Staffing, working|
|Manpower||Workforce, human effort|
|Preferred pronouns||Pronouns, personal pronouns|
|Sexual preference||Sexual orientation|
|Gay (as a generic term)||LGBTQIA+|
|Virgin||First run, first launch|
Challenges within the tech industry make it harder for women to pursue a career in our field, and even once women join tech, they are less likely to stay in it – both because of lack of role models and because it’s often male-dominated and gender exclusive. Valence is working to improve things for women in tech and raising awareness about this issue is one way that we can contribute to progress.
What else should we do to make tech inclusive? We’d love to learn more from others who are supporting women in tech.