I don’t have to look at my calendar to know that March 8 – also known as International Women’s Day – is approaching. In the days leading to this holiday, I usually get requests from journalists to comment on the position of women in the IT industry. Is the situation improving?
One thing that has improved in the last decade since I got involved in promoting programming among women is greater awareness. At least now we remember to notice the lack of women in tech on March 8! However, I can tell you that we haven’t reached equal representation and equal opportunities until we only remember to showcase successful women once a year, while white, straight, cis men predominantly take up the spotlight on the remaining 364 (or 365) days. We haven’t done our job until news of women being successful in tech is not news anymore.
There isn’t an easy fix. Because this isn’t just somebody’s fault. We have multiple factors working together, from turning away young girls from technical fields, all the way to making successful women fed up with the industry. We accept that writing good software is a team effort, so why do we still imagine that we can change complex social dynamics with the equivalent of one-line code solutions?
Instead of gifting flowers, look around the office (or, these days, more commonly Slack) and recognize the work and often overlooked contributions of women on your team. Check for bias in your hiring ads. Tell young girls they don’t have to be perfect and introduce them to video games and other creative tools. Showcase and proudly attribute the kickass work women do. Invite women as keynote speakers, invite them to share their views as experts. (And if you insist on flowers, I suggest the LEGO Botanical collection.)
March 8 is an excellent opportunity to start imagining more opportunities for women and girls, but the work shouldn’t stop on March 9. I look forward to a day when we won’t even have to talk about the state of women in tech – and other similar fields – because nobody will be surprised to hear a woman say that she works as an engineer. I also look forward to a day when we start to value – and appropriately compensate – fields where women are the norm. Until then, we’ve all got work to do, every single day of the year.