The 8th March is a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, a day that first began in 1911.
Our CEO, Fred de Haro, gave his thoughts on International Women’s Day and the power of women in the workplace.
‘Diversity in the workplace is very important. Balanced decision making is vital and necessary throughout the business process, but it can only happen if you have a diverse team. We have a varied customer demographic, with some of our top customers and technology end users being women. More and more women are now able to access technology and benefit from it, meaning that they can influence its progression – which can only be a good thing!
Too many technology companies are dominated by men and this needs to change. It’s not a case of simply positively discriminating towards female employees but a need to put in place the ability to attract, train and promote those women towards the higher echelons of leadership. It’s a case of walking the walk and talking the talk. I am very fortunate to have a co-founder such as Bettina Rubek-Slater, who compliments our leadership skills and brings her vast experience to the table. This means that any decisions we make are balanced and beneficial to our community.
International Women’s Day is a day that makes you reflect on your own practices and work culture, and here at Pycom we actively try to make the working environment as diverse and dynamic as possible.’
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #EachForEqual. As explained by the World Economic Forum, EachForEqual seeks to draw attention to the idea that gender inequality is an economic issue – as gender equality is essential for economies and communities to thrive. Alarmingly, the WEF’s Women, Business and Law report found that only 6 countries give women equal legal working rights as men, as a typical economy only gives women three-quarters of the rights of men. This year’s campaign seeks to highlight six key areas:
- Championing women forging tech innovation
- Applauding equality for women athletes
- Forging inclusive workplaces so that women thrive
- Supporting women to earn on their own terms
- Empowering women through health education
- Increasing visibility for female creatives
Gender parity is the benchmark of progress, as it’s a socioeconomic index that measures women’s access to schools, health services, financial systems and legal institutions. The World Economic Forum recently released its Global Gender Report 2020, which has statistics to both celebrate and act on. There are some grounding statements, ‘at the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity.’ We’ve got to do better than this, which will take effort on everyone’s part.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The top five most-improved countries in the overall index this year (Ethiopia, Spain, Mali, Albania, and Mexico) which have closed their gaps by 3.4 points or more. There are also some huge improvements being made in sectors such as education, with 40 out of the 153 countries in the report having achieved full parity. That means that there are more women in education, and advancements are being made to make sure that they are being given the same opportunities as their male counterparts. This means that they are able to attend and remain in education and decide for themselves what they want to do and where they want to go.
In the technology industry, PwC also found that that is an alarming shortage of female role models. In a 2017 survey, only 22% of respondents could name a famous female working in technology. This quite possibly reflects the fact that women tend not to rise as high as men in technology, as 20% of women remain in junior positions even when they are older than 35. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that there are multiple levels where women aren’t being seen and aren’t seeing themselves, and so the cycle continues. However, the more effort put into reaching full gender parity means more women at the helm – more role models equals more visibility.
It’s important to point out that among corporations that are already publicly held, there is already a level of representation, although it is low. Every company in the S&P 500, which represents 500 large companies listed on the US stock exchange, now has a woman on the board and women hold 20.2% of board seats. In the Russell 3000, which represents 3,000 of the largest publicly held companies in America, women hold about one in five seats on the boards. Economically and culturally, this is fantastic, as research has shown that having women in the C-Suite makes companies more profitable and gender diversity can make firms more productive.
(Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood, source: 960×0.jpg)
Just look at some of the most active women in the IoT maker space today. Limor Fried, or as she is more commonly known, ladyada, is the owner of Adafruit Industries. Her moniker clearly echoes the first female computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, so other women in technology are clearly a source of inspiration. She is hugely active within the open-source hardware community and actively helps to nurture a passion for science and technology – everyone, from hobbyists to school children, can get involved with hardware. She was the first female engineer on the front cover of Wired magazine and has won multiple awards for her hard work in the electronics industry. In an interview with CNET, she said, ‘If there’s one thing I’d like to see from this, it would be for some kids to say to themselves ‘I could do that’ and start the journey to becoming an engineer and entrepreneur.’
Another fantastically active woman in the maker community is Alex Glow, who you might know if you are active on Hackster.io. She is their lead Hardware Nerd and creates incredibly inventive projects. If you want an AI-powered familiar, then Archimedes is your best bet! Her love of hardware began as a FIRST Robotics participant and its only grown from there! She has given multiple talks and was also on the cover of HackSpace Magazine, ‘Best Maker Hardware’. You can find her on hackster.io under Alex Glow.
Including in women in male dominated areas means that unrecognised biases or basic assumptions are challenged, which often results in positive change. Take car crash dummies as an example; in 2011 car manufacturers began using smaller dummies rather than the standard male-proportioned dummy. This was because a bright spark pointed out that women and men, generally, have different proportions. As Anna Holland Smith wrote for Medium.com, if you take the 2011 Toyota Sienna, when colliding with a barrier at 35 mph, the female dummy in the passenger seat registered a 20 to 40% risk of death or serious injury. So, to quote Dr David Lawrence, ‘Manufacturers and designers used to all be men. It didn’t occur to them they should be designing for people unlike themselves. Well, we got over that.’ When you don’t have women in your workforce, you can miss fundamental issues.
However, celebrating International Women’s Day shouldn’t just be a single day of the calendar where attentions are turned to the struggles of women. There should be action throughout the year. That means tackling things such as bias in recruiting, as you might recall Amazon’s recruiting tool from 2018 that favoured men for technical jobs based upon the data that it had been fed. It means asking how your workplace can support its current staff; how can you create a culture that prides itself on a diverse range of experiences and perspectives. It means encouraging the women around you when you hear them doubt themselves. This isn’t just an effort for women to celebrate women and how far we have come, but to also recognise the half of the population deserves to be equal to the other half – that we’re stronger together for it.
To quote our COO, Bettina Rubek-Slater, ‘Technology is dynamic and fast-paced, and if you are happy with that, then there should be no barriers to getting a foot on the employment ladder in it, regardless of gender, ethnicity, background or orientation.
Support those around you, champion diversity in the workplace and believe in the power of different perspectives – it all comes together to create a far better world.’
For further information about events and how you can get involved, head to: https://www.internationalwomensday.com