A male-dominated corporate culture, combined with a distinct lack of girls and women interested in pursuing careers in math, science, and technical fields has created a tech industry that struggles with gender bias and gender diversity. In some ways the tech industry is an example of how to work toward gender equality, but it also depends on having enough available women interested in filling the roles in the first place.
I spoke with a number of women in tech from Adobe and Vera to get a female perspective on the gender discrimination issue, how the tech industry is doing at dealing with it, and suggestions for how we can continue to make strides toward true gender equality.
Concerns have been raised for years about the “good ol’ boy” network in corporate America that seems to discriminate against talented and skilled female employees while rewarding mediocrity or outright incompetence from male peers. The issue of gender in the workplace is an important challenge for companies to face—especially in the tech industry. As Women’s History Month winds to a close, I want to share some of the experiences and insights from women in tech.
I reached out to a number of women who work in the tech industry to learn more about their experiences and whether or not they’ve experienced bias or discrimination personally. I also asked for their perceptions of the current state of the industry as it relates to gender equality, and how we can continue to improve in the future.
Bias and Discrimination
Gender discrimination—like any bias or stereotyping—is sometimes brazen and obvious, but is most often subtle and possibly inadvertent even. As with racism, some of the most frequent and insidious examples of gender discrimination come from people who consider themselves feminists—or at least believe they’re progressive enough not to have a double-standard.
Paulette Scheffer, currently a Senior Director of IT Security for Adobe, began her career working for AT&T and Ericsson, before moving to the IT organization at Xerox. She shared with me some examples of overt bias or discrimination she has experienced. “The most blatant was being told I would not be considered for a position (including a promotion) because the team wanted a man in the position and would therefore not consider women. In another egregious example a male VP commented that he needed his pillows fluffed when discussing a high performing female.”
Carmen Cerrelli, VP of Finance for Vera, has worked in a variety of countries around the world, and explained that the examples of gender bias vary based on region and culture. “Every country brought a unique set of challenges. When I worked in the Middle East, it was a challenge to earn the respect of the customers. When in Italy, I was constantly touched in uncomfortable ways. In New York, I had to sit and tolerate obscene language and pretend it did not bother me. Being in my role, I am constantly fighting for equality in compensation among both genders.”
“There are examples of overt bias or discrimination all around us. Human beings by nature are social beings and therefore, innately want to be around others. Some people want to be around others who make them feel comfortable, and other people want to be around those who will simply include them in the group,” reasoned Wendy Poland, Product Security Group Program Manager for Adobe. “I’m sure there are many other reasons we group ourselves or distinguish our groups the way we do. However, I believe every group is fluid and needs change in order to survive…sort of Darwinian. Because of this, people push boundaries to test the strength and weakness of a group. An example of this test are those that apply bias and those that are biased against.”
Read the full story on Forbes: Tech Industry Has Made Progress With Gender Bias But Still Has A Long Way To Go.