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Unconscious bias as a barrier to gender balance

Brenda points out that unconscious biases play a significant role in shifting the gender balance, and more specifically affinity biases, which are particularly prevalent in the VC tech investment space.

According to data from the Boston Consulting Group, only 3% of investor funding goes to female-led tech startups, which Brenda attributes to an affinity bias, as the majority of venture capitalists are male. “Men tend to identify with men and understand and support men’s products,” she says.

“There is a habit among tech leaders – who are predominantly male – of being trapped in the stereotype that STEM-related roles are male roles. For this reason, the talent that women bring to this domain is neglected and/or ignored in favor of men, which tends to be the default setting in technology.

Worse, many men don’t recognize these issues exist, with women four times more likely than men to see gender bias as a barrier to promotion.

“The fact that there is a gap in perceptions of bias between men and women signifies the problem,” she says. “Until those who have been traditionally centered understand and accept that their centering is a problem, we will continue to have the problem. Yes, more female leaders will help move towards solving the image problem, but these female leaders will pay a high price for the setback that will exist, as long as men feel that the existing imbalance represents what is “normal”.

It’s thanks to this resistance and pushback from female leaders that diversity in tech has improved, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.’s 2021 Tech Equity Experience Survey (TechEES) report found that since 2019 and 2020, tech experiences have actually deteriorated for all marginalized genders and are increasingly only worse when the data is disaggregated by intersectional identities.

“We still see and feel the impact of the intentional marginalization of ‘others,’ including women, LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, people with disabilities, people and others whose identity and background don’t fit in neat boxes,” says Brenda.

This leads to a continued increase in attrition rates among women in tech. Despite incremental progress in diversity figures from big tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, a 2020 report by Accenture found that half of young women entering tech jobs leave before the age of 35 years.

A more recent report by New View Strategies found that 38% of women plan to leave their jobs in the tech industry in the next few years, largely due to women’s experiences of gender inequality on work place. One in three women in tech say they experience gender bias in the workplace, while nearly half (46%) say their organizations don’t actively prioritize gender equality in their work. recruitment or their culture.

“Technology has the potential to be a great equalizer, however, if people have historically been denied the opportunity to participate in the ecosystem and continue to be excluded, there’s no reason,” Brenda says, adding that long hours, unequal pay, a lack of flexible working hours and the scarcity of advancements also prevent diverse talent from entering the field.

What organizations can do to increase the number of women and non-binary people in tech

Brenda says the time for organizations to prioritize inclusivity with actionable policies and practices is long overdue. So what strategies should organizations adopt to actively recruit female technologists and retain them in the tech workplace?

“I think the main title is ‘normalizing diversity’ and that can only happen when leaders and middle managers develop and maintain a growth mindset. Hire more women and non-binary technologists, promote more women to leadership positions, provide opportunities for women and non-binary technologists to amplify their voices, and show young women that there are multiple entry points in technology to establish a satisfying career without fear of ‘what’s going to happen to us? »

Brenda says finding role models to help employed women, whether at the entry-level, mid-career, or senior level, is critical in tech; and companies can and should reflect an inclusive work culture by investing in a diverse talent pool.

“When this happens, employees are seen and develop a sense of belonging, which our data shows is a priority for female workers. If there are more female leaders and they are supported in the workplace, it increases the longevity and sustainability of tech careers for other young women as they see the career opportunities.

She recognizes that both men and women benefit from both male and female role models, because when humanity supports humanity, humanity wins; but we need to start where the biggest gaps exist, which is to have more women at all levels of tech, especially in leadership, to provide mentorship and sponsorship to female technologists in order to finally leveling the playing field.

Brenda says male allies are also important participants in the process, as they can spotlight and recommend their female and non-binary colleagues for more opportunities to lead or work on projects, fill positions, and advocate for their interests. interests in rooms and at tables for where they are not invited.

“It’s a matter of fairness, providing everyone with the specific tools they need to succeed in their professional career.”

Brenda advises companies and institutions to invest in re-entry programs for women who are re-entering the workforce due to childcare or other family obligations and/or who have interrupted their careers for any reason – which should also give them access to new training and remuneration. They should also look to recruit from a variety of educational institutions and look for people from “non-traditional” careers. Once hired, organizations need to increase retention by ensuring those onboarded have the tools they need to thrive.

She also urges companies to implement strategies that accelerate the pace of change in their organizations. One effective strategy she recommends is to hire women in cohorts rather than one at a time. “Apprenticeship programs and scholarships are examples of strategies that bring the added benefits of reducing the token effect of bringing an isolated woman into an all-male environment.”

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