A few weeks ago, I went into a cyber meeting and was excited to join the conversation. As soon as I entered the virtual room, I looked around and noticed that I was the only woman. I messaged one of the vice presidents of the company privately and said,” Isn’t it sad that I’m the only woman in the room?” He responded, “Oh, yes. I never noticed these things.”
Fast forward to the morning of November 26: I’m in my living room watching the FIFA match between Poland and Saudi Arabia. I turned to my friend after a shot on the crowd popped up and said to her, “Woo, no women in the crowd for SA,” to which she responded, “Oh, yes, you’re so right. I didn’t even notice.”
I’m sure you can follow the pattern: At that moment, it dawned on me that the problem many of us are trying to address is way bigger than we can imagine, and in those moments, I realized that unless you’re passionate about this issue, like me, you can walk into a room and not even realize the inequities around you.
How can we fix what we can’t even see? How do you fight for equality when you’re invisible? These are the questions that I constantly ask myself.
I wasn’t surprised after reviewing the latest McKinsey “Women in the Workplace” report that showed that even when women desire to advance, the roadblocks they face make it impossible for them to make progress. As a woman in tech, it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed by all the issues I notice and the harsh realization that I can’t fix any of them on my own.
Women are leaving tech, period, and after so many reports and lessons learned, you’d think the landscape would look different as new technology emerges. Still, the findings of a McKinsey study showed that “even in the metaverse, women remain locked out of leadership roles,” despite the fact that women are implementing more metaverse initiatives and spend more time in it than men. The study found that “in organizations shaping metaverse standards, 90% of leadership roles are held by men,” which is a disadvantage because “the metaverse has the power to significantly alter the global economy and open up new, more egalitarian opportunities for everyone” who uses it.
By now, we all know that better representation in professional settings isn’t only morally correct and essential for promoting equality in our society as a whole, but it also provides advantages for corporate growth. So, where do we begin? Here’s my take.
Admit that we have a problem.
The first step to increasing tech diversity is admitting that we have a huge problem when reports tell us that 38% of working women are considering leaving their jobs in tech by the end of 2023. I feel like we’re all in denial, and everyone is waiting for someone else to take action. But in the end, nobody’s creating meaningful change, or it’s so tiny that it isn’t moving the needle. We must all admit that:
• Our current hiring practices are outdated and designed to keep women out.
• The overtime culture is prevalent and particularly difficult for mothers, who often take on greater childcare obligations at home.
• Women get paid less than men for doing the same job.
• In every area of the workforce, women have a harder time advancing to senior positions.
• We still have highly toxic “bro cultures” that make women feel unwelcomed and intimidated.
Invest in upskilling and reskilling efforts.
The need to upskill and reskill was urgent before the pandemic, and it’s now more urgent than ever, as it helps us create new jobs and develop more inclusive world economies. This focus will help companies cut hiring and recruitment costs, develop the talent you actually need and—most importantly to me—boost employee engagement and morale.
Be vocal about the value women bring to tech.
Companies can assist in changing the narrative so that women are more engaged in the business and see the personal value in a technology profession. We desperately need more female role models, and supporting female tech education is only one item in the infinite toolkit available to companies. You can also ensure promotions are unbiased by gender, provide maternity and paternity leave, hire and promote more women into leadership roles, develop mentorship and sponsorship programs and, most important of all, demand respect toward all genders in the workplace.
What’s next? At the rate we’re going, if women continue to drop out of tech, future generations will miss opportunities and advancement that can only be possible by talented and gender-diverse teams. Women in leadership positions are equally as ambitious as males, but they frequently encounter obstacles that make it difficult for them to advance.
Women’s departure from tech isn’t just an issue of leaning in, as Sheryl Sandberg suggests. It’s about changing the work environment and the office climate that frustrates women and pushes women out. The systems we encounter often don’t offer flexible work schedules, other female role models/mentors or opportunities for advancement, but now that we know better, we must do better together.
This article originally appeared on Forbes and has been republished with permission.