A Woman in _______
I have always been a proud woman in tech. Telling people that you are a woman in tech has been normalized in my industry. There are women in tech events, women in tech societies, even woman in tech twitter threads. Sometimes I wonder though, can I just be someone who works in tech? Do I have to always state that I’m a woman who happens to work in the tech industry?
I have always been, and will always be a strong supporter of supporting women. From funding women fronted companies to simply supporting a woman in crisis, I strongly believe we need to come together as a unit and make room for everyone. I live by the motto that there is room at the top for everyone and I want to bring my friends along. I have never believed in the notion that to be an executive you need to ‘be like a man’ or to cut other women down because there is only room for one. I just don’t play by those rules.
However, in the recent years of #MeToo, I’ve noticed more events and diversity and inclusion initiatives that focus in on being a woman in _____. Fill in the blank with whatever you want: tech, engineering, marketing, television, the industries are endless. Are our numbers really that poor that we need to identify the field we are in to legitimize ourselves? According to research by MaRS and Move The Dial, women comprise only 13% of the average tech company’s executive team and are not evenly distributed across the ecosystem. 53% of tech companies have no women executives at all.
Just let that number sink in for a moment. More than half tech companies in Canada do not have any female executives. When I read this number my heart breaks just a little bit.
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that pointing out my differences is not going to make a difference. Telling the world that I’m a woman (which I hope is obvious!) and telling the world that I work in technology should be two separate things. While I will always hold my woman in tech head high, I’m not sure if I need to self identify as a woman in tech any longer.
In this world I worry that by highlighting that I’m a woman in tech may just be a strike against me or even a step back. I’ve begun to notice a trend recently where I’m specifically being asked to be on panels and to host events not for my thought leadership but because I check a diversity box. While I am frequently flattered for just being asked, I’d much rather be asked because of my ideas, not because they need diversity on a panel. Frankly, in most aspects of my life I do not want to just be another box to be checked.
So, how do we fix this problem? Can we even fix this problem? I like to think we can. I have seen great strides in diversity and inclusion lately, especially with fantastic organizations such as Venture Out. People are changing the language around gender identity and the ties are slowly changing. We aren’t quite there yet, but I like to believe that in the near future we will be.
In the meantime, I am still going to hold my woman in tech head high. While I’m no longer going to self declare as a woman in tech, I am going to support the movements and support the people who have chosen that path. At the end of the day I am still a woman. A woman who happens to have chosen tech as a career.