Raise Your Voice And Choose To Challenge

By Kate Bachman, Director of Partner Communications, ConnectWise

To me, this year’s core International Women’s Day theme means finding your voice and summoning up the courage to speak and act for equality. It’s about not accepting the status quo or trying to fit ourselves into outdated models of work or gender roles. We need to challenge the structures that exist today because they were not built for equality. They were not built with our voices and experiences in mind. We need to use our voices to build new structures, new ways of working and new ways of thinking that reflect the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.

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For starters, there is still a massive gender gap in employee populations and in executive teams, which makes everything about advancing equality more difficult. There is a fatigue that sets in when you have to be the one – or one of only a few — voices for gender equality in a workplace. The constant battles, even small ones, take their toll. It’s like trying to play a full soccer match without any subs. We need people who share our experiences at work – on many different levels – and not having that at a broad level like gender is tough. While I don’t believe that any woman in the tech industry would categorize her experience as wholly negative or positive, there are days/weeks/months where I have felt enormously supported and encouraged about the progress we’re making as an industry towards equality. Then, there are others where all I see are roadblocks to any meaningful change.

We need to redraw the image of a “great’ employee and what that person needs to thrive. For so long that image (at least in the U.S.) was designed around the typical, middle-aged, upper-middle class white male who works insanely long hours and demonstrates an extreme level of loyalty to a company. That doesn’t work anymore and that image must be left behind if equality is the goal. We need to value the quality of work, not the hours; the creativity and resiliency, not the number of tasks checked off a list. If we redraw the ‘ideal employee’ in this way and build work structures to support them, we’ll create environments that women want to be a part of.

Of course, this isn’t an easy thing to do, but we can start by purposely being more aware of women’s experiences in the tech industry and employ more empathy. Operationally, tech companies need to be more purposeful about filling recruitment pipelines with a greater percentage of diverse candidates. They need to employ ways to remove unconscious bias from the interview and hiring processes. Also, companies should push for more than the table stakes or lip service initiatives and do things that actually matter – like closing a wage gap and including women in important planning discussions and projects. Leaders, if you look around a meeting room and don’t see a balanced number of males/females, there’s a problem. Take action to change it.

Although I never really enjoy anything that puts the onus on women to fix equality issues, I will note that as women, we spend so much time making ourselves small, taking up less space — which is essentially apologizing for our very existence. This is something that we need to change in day-to-day behaviors. We each bring value to our workplaces, our relationships, and to the world, and we need to own that value and reflect that in the ways in which we teach others how to treat us. Every interaction is an opportunity to show others that we will choose to challenge the status quo and we will not accept inequality.

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