The collective actions of thousands across movements like #metoo and #TimesUp has shown the world that being rich, powerful, and male does not give you a free pass. We believe that Dr. Ford felt more able to act on her civic duty because of and through the support of these movements. Similarly, we believe that the 20,000 Google employees that participated in the recent Google Walkout for Real Change were fueled by the power of these movements. We’ve made progress. But clearly not enough.
A recent YouGov poll revealed that President Donald Trump’s supporters believe that menare discriminated against more than the LGBTQ+ community, women, and most ethnic minorities. You would be tempted to laugh had the results of this pollnot come out following the Senate confirming Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment tothe Supreme Court, despite the allegations against him. Not to mention, Trump having directly mocked Dr. Ford’s testimony against Kavanaugh.
Would a nominee for Supreme Court Justice, whether liberal or conservative, have been confirmed following Dr. Ford’s brave testimony if Hillary Clinton was President? Would she have instructed the FBI differently? Would Google have handled Andy Rubin’s sexual assault allegations with a $90M payout, if the senior leadership teamand board were comprised of more women at the time? We are pretty sure therewould have been different outcomes in both cases. We can already see thedangerous implications of not having enough women in leadership roles in politics and government, and we all know this lack of representation of women,ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community spans many sectors,including in the tech sector. Which is the new economy. We believe that everypart of our future will rely on technology in some form or another. Andyet it is a sector that maintains a jarring gender gap.
Overall women hold about the same amount of undergraduate degrees as men, but onlyabout 30% of them are graduating from STEM courses. In the US, just 18% ofComputer Science degrees go to women. For women who’ve already made it throughthe door, almost a third plan to leave their STEM jobs within a year. Womenaccounted for less than a fifth of newly-appointed CEOs at US companies lastyear. And the numbers are even worse in the tech industry alone. We believethat this problem perpetuates itself. You can only be what you can see. Andthere simply have not been enough tech leader role models that are women. Whenwe picture iconic female tech leaders, along the lines of people like SherylSandberg, there are not many examples.
We need more women at the top. Including at the design, leadership and board tables oftech companies. And this is an urgent problem. If our tech design andleadership tables don’t reflect the populations they serve (including women,and particularly women of colour) — which they currently don’t — ourtechnology solutions will be biased. And as AI becomes increasingly morecommon, we fear we won’t be able to untrain the bias we ingrain into ourtechnology solutions. Earlier this month, it was uncovered that Amazon scrappedits secret AI recruiting tool because it showed bias against women. The reasonfor the bias? Amazon’s computer models were trained to examine applicants byobserving patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a period of 10years when most applicants were men, reflecting the male dominance across thetech industry.
To ensure that women are at the forefront of our new economy, which is vital, we need togo further than empowerment. While empowerment is critical, alone, it will notlead to advancement without individual and shared action.
What if wecould collectively direct all of the energy we each put into monitoring oursocial feeds about the current state of the nation in the US towards proactively helping at least one woman advance through one small act? The simple gesture of bringing a junior woman colleague into an executive meetingso she can see how to run it, or bring her along to attend an event, or createa new network connection, or give her a stretch assignment – can change her career (and life). And what about providing coaching around achievingspecific goals, what I call career “championing”, to enable andsupport her to actually advance, take the next step?
Right at this moment, you can actively make a decision to go out of your way for onewoman, and you will play a huge part in moving the dial. These small acts canmake big change towards advancing the participation and leadership of women.Because we need more women at the top. To design solutions for all of us, tobring diversity of thought to making decisions like how to handle sexual harassment allegations, and because it is almost 2019. Equality should be tablestakes by now. Shouldn’t it?