HOW WOMEN’S TRIUMPHS ARE BEING UNDERMINED AND HOW START-UPS ARE DIFFERENT
Warren Buffet once famously quoted “[Women] have to get like the males and claim credit for way more than they do”! In his typical astute and Socratic manner the maestro hit the nail on the head. We all know that facts and figures do not lie. In today’s day and age of gratis information saturating our minds, text has left the realm of being “impressive.”
Well, statistics say that less than 3% of the world’s largest companies have women leaders at the helm. Even more shocking is the discrimination that is the underlying theme jolting mutual appreciation and collaboration in male inclined workforces. Because of societal conditioning, men tend to subliminally come together as a group aiding and encouraging each other’s corporate rise, leaving the ladies alone and sometimes alienated.
Why this “second citizen” behavior? Is it because women are less capable, less competent? Or is the story something else altogether. In the midst of the testosterone fuelled braggadocio is it really a man’s…wait woman’s world? And what is the new trend providing succor to bruised female self-respect? Since I am passionate about Women in Technology, readers need to forgive me for my somewhat blinkered view of the gender parity issue and the discrimination that is abetted by the dwindling number of women in tech positions. The situation is really pitiable in this niche!
Revisit Warren Buffet’s insightful comment at the very beginning of this piece. That may be one significant half of the problem which is blocking women from owning the tech domain and making giant strides (at least those comparable to her colleagues in other domains). Humility and lack of ego are admirable traits that virtues ladies are famous for. But in a large group setting or an organization they tend to act as a drawback. Firstly women are reluctant to rate themselves high, especially where male team partners are involved.
University of Massachusetts Lowell and NYU conducted an experiment; the findings of which were reported in the July 2013 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. It brought forward conclusive first hand data highlighting the distinct proclivity of women to surrender credit willingly when a group project excels.
Popular Forbes writer Caroline Turner also admits falling victim to this particular folly even though she is a very well placed woman. To make matters worse women do not get involved in power struggles and thus they tend to forgive the occasional intrusion of creative space by male colleagues. The internet is replete with instances of unintentional “idea stealing” by men. The word unintentional is important because there are scores of men out there who genuinely support ladies in technology and try to provide a platform for them to shine. Unfortunately it is still common for a woman to articulate an idea only to have it restructured by a gentleman who then proceeds to stake claim to its originality. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once lamented that when she spoke at meetings, her inputs were often ignored, only to be usurped by a man who was then lauded for the feat.
Hitting closer to home I have had my manager glibly take credit for my design and implementation pocketing a hefty bonus in the process while I was left wondering how my “significant” contributions were overlooked completely. I do know the fact that the management reaps the tangible benefits of good performance but a simple “Well done” couldn’t have been that hard.
THE SAGA STARTS IN THE CAVES OF EARLY HOMO SAPIENS
You read that right! Just the other day I stumbled upon an article that discussed the debatable issue of gender based plagiarism. Academics are pondering the distinct probability that given the time male Homo sapiens spent hunting for food, the primeval art we appreciate on the cave walls of heritage spots may well be the handiwork of the females of the tribes.So the practice of whittling away at the creativity of a woman in the name of team work is not a recent occurrence.
Not many people are privy to the information but copious additions to the notes of Charles Babbage were made by Ada Lovelace – the daughter of Lord Byron. She is credited by niche sources as the “mother of computer programming” but I doubt if her contributions are mainstream. We coders should be eternally thankful to her idea of feeding instructions to the machine in the form of words and symbols to compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent (sounds suspiciously like a programming algorithm doesn’t it?)
In more recent times the former CEO of Hewlett Packard Carly Fiorina, who saw HP through the tumultuous “dot com” bubble burst, was forced out for her troubles. Her accomplishments were marginalized by economic conditions she had no control over. Fiorina has expressed her disappointment not at the way in which she was treated but the general tendency to corner females even when they are in top positions transferring their credits to the (generally) male successors.
But thankfully times are changing. It will take a lot of persistent and genuine effort on part of the tech giants like Google, Twitter and LinkedIn to bring present gender diversity numbers up to par but entrepreneurship unencumbered by bureaucracy and parochial thinking is witnessing a great influx of tech savvy, determined women ready to own the world.
AND STARTUPS PROVE THAT ASSUMPTION
Well established enterprises tend to have a more rigid outlook towards gender issues. They do not have the time or the inclination to go seek out talented women and nurture them to get the best of their problem solving abilities. Startups and entrepreneurs are innovators. They need to stretch their seed capital and their claim to fame is doing things differently. They have the incentive to welcome as many diverse thought processes and perspectives as possible. More and more women are coming out of conventional diversity poor enterprises and setting up highly successful startup companies thus becoming role models for the future generation of girls.
Be it Julia Hartz the co-founder of Eventbrite or Mary Lou Jepsen of Pixel Qi, the ladies are laying solid foundations for their emerging endeavors. It goes without saying that these multi-milliondollar organizations are the billion dollar giants of tomorrow. Startups headed by women are prospective incubators where technically skilled ladies come together with supportive men to make their mark on the tech scene eventually benefiting everyone involved.
I would like to wrap up with the conclusion that the field of technology is one of equal opportunities where potential to succeed is concerned. Many groups argue that women are wired differently and that makes technology difficult for them to grasp. But in my opinion, tech is a lot more conducive to feminine participation than other physically intensive professions where biology may actually interfere.
Men must allow the contributions of women to surface and educate other males to do the same. Once their efforts are validated more and more ladies will find the confidence to jump the startupband-wagon or simply get comfortable in their skin even if they are working for Fortune 500 companies.
With conscious effort it can be “our” world where gender diversity flourishes and gender discrimination is a thing of the past.
The Author: Erica Baity / TechieChic
Erica is the founder of TechieChic, a company geared towards educating, training and staffing women in technology. Its vision is to reach gender parity in coding fields. To this effect TechieChic offers two programs, Girls Learning Code and Youth Code Academy, to expose the youth of the country to technological prospects and provide affordable learning options.