Despite the #MeToo movement and recent outcries for equality, 85 percent of women and 62 percent of men believe gender discrimination exists in tech, according to the Dice Diversity and Inclusion Report 2018. Couple that with a recent Pew Research Center survey in which 48 percent of women in STEM jobs said their gender has made it harder for them to succeed, and it’s clear that discrimination remains persistent.
No matter how big the problem, you can perhaps make things at least a little better by acting as an agent of change in your workplace. Here are five ways that men in technology can support their female colleagues.
Don’t be afraid to push for change by pointing out unfair treatment or practices in the workplace, even if it means walking out or blowing the whistle online, suggested Ursula Mead, founder and CEO of InHerSight, a site dedicated to helping women improve workplaces.
Collective action not only brings attention to the plight of women; it often results in better corporate protections, Mead noted. For instance, the recent protest at Google over the handling of sexual harassment allegations not only ushered in policy changes at the search-engine giant, but several other tech companies got the message and followed suit with their own policy alterations.
Become an Ally
According to Mead, over 40 percent of the women who rate the places they’ve worked on InHerSight say they don’t have male allies or advocates at work. As a result, they are often excluded from important meetings or decision-making caucuses, which in turn impacts their careers, professional growth and workloads. Worse, their ideas are either overlooked or plagiarized by their male counterparts, a behavior known as “hepeating.”
As a male employee, you can lobby for change by amplifying the voice of women in the workplace. Recognize their ideas in meetings, solicit their input, and tout their accomplishments. If you’re comfortable doing so, volunteer to share a past or current salary as a way to counter the pay discrimination that often plagues women in technical fields; arming them with that information will allow them to more effectively negotiate their next raise.
Embolden Women through Mentoring
Offer to serve as a mentor to your women colleagues by sharing your expertise. Invite them to participate in leadership tasks, as well.
“You don’t necessarily need a formal mentoring relationship to help women advance,” noted Kirsten Moorefield, co-founder and COO of Cloverleaf, a provider of team assessment tools. Provide tips for navigating a male-dominated workplace. Alternatively, help junior colleagues deepen their managerial skills by allowing them to push back when they disagree; walk them through your reasoning when you make decisions.
Avoid Double Standards
When it comes to recognizing skills and achievements (and awarding raises and promotions), studies show that double standards are alive and well.
For example, in a blind study of GitHub users, code written by women was accepted 78.6 percent of the time—4 percent more than code written by men. Yet even if women were rated as better coders, they were only recognized as such when their gender was omitted from their submissions. Moreover, while men are encouraged and respected for being assertive, women who exhibit assertive behaviors tend to viewed negatively in a workplace environment.
So what can male tech pros do to help level the playing field? Recognize and overcome your unconscious bias and stereotypes that may influence the way you evaluate the contributions of your female colleagues. Use the same standards and measures to assess the value of work done by all genders.
Support a More Curious Culture
Doing what you can to promote a more inclusive culture not only encourages creative problem-solving and innovation among teams—it benefits women by fostering inclusiveness and diversity within the workplace. Support open-minded conversations where everyone feels empowered to contribute their thoughts and ideas.
“Cognitive diversity has become increasingly important, especially in tech,” Moorefield explained. That’s because understanding the cultural views, problems and preferences of a diverse user base is critical to launching a new solution or tool. As tech pros and leaders are discovering, the best way to appeal to the needs of diverse customers is by having a diverse workforce.