IWD 2017 | A Seat at the Table: Women in Tech
Usabilla recognizes the importance of gender parity and as a tech company, it’s something we’re striving towards. In fact, just under 40% of our employees are women; so when it came to International Women’s Day our Office team gathered us together to ask how we’d best like to honor it.
Laying the foundation for ‘A Seat at the Table’
On previous occasions we’ve been lucky enough to receive gifts as a token of appreciation for the great things we, as women in tech, achieve on a daily basis. But this year we wanted to go bigger. To really make an impact.
The result? A Seat at the Table.
A Seat at the Table is now a Usabilla-wide initiative exploring diversity in the workplace. Through a series of meetups and events, we’ll be highlighting how a diverse and empowered workforce can help both employers and employees achieve their goals, and make a real impact on the world.
International Women’s Day felt like the perfect opportunity to kick the series off, so a handful of Usabilla employees partnered with our CSR committee to host a Meetup.
With A Seat at the Table: Women in Tech we wanted to empower women to aim high, smash their goals, and make an impact on the digital world. And honestly, the evening was all we wanted it to be and more. However, for those of you who missed out, here’s a quick overview of what went down.
Females make up only 5.8% of Software Developers
After welcoming our guests in from the rain and warming them up with a stamppot buffet and some good old fashioned booze, our CEO took to the stage to kick things off. Demonstrating his support for the event, Marc shared an important anecdote that back in our early startup days both our first employee and our first investor were women.
Pauline Vos, Back-end Developer at Usabilla, then got started with an introductory talk.
Pauline shared some surprising insights on where gender parity in the tech industry currently stands, alongside how we compare at Usabilla.
She also shared a disappointing statistic from The Economist that scored the Netherlands with 51.8 (out of 100), four places below average, in their Glass-Ceiling Index. A study that aimed to reveal where women have the best chances of equal treatment at work.
Reclaiming programming starts with changing the narrative
Following this, Usabilla Software Developer and the first female to join our Development team, Angèle, shared her story.
Angèle spoke candidly about her experience overcoming Engineer stereotypes and finding her place amongst the machismo. She explained why the existing (or lack of!) narrative surrounding a woman’s place in the tech industry shouldn’t have to be the dominant one; encouraging us to swim against the current and make a dent in the lack of female mentor figures.
Narratives are exactly that, narratives. And they can evolve.
Diversity in tech – it’s a marathon, not a sprint
Next up, it was time for our guest speaker. Michelle Gyimah of Equality Pays flew in from Manchester for the occasion and her educational talk explored the role of women in tech as two sides of the same coin.
Luckily we captured the whole hour on video, but until the edits are ready, here’s a summary of her insightful presentation:
- There’s a big misalignment of priorities when it comes to the recruitment and retention of women in tech. Where employees often advertise full-time positions with a strict requirement of educational and work experience, alongside gimmicky perks like ping pong and bacon sandwiches on a Friday; this doesn’t reflect the reality. Women applying for such positions, more often than not, have not studied STEM subjects but found tech skills via alternate routes. This means they are likely to have taken a different career path to their male counterparts. They are also interested in more grown-up perks such as personal growth and business development – women are ambitious too!
- Women are just as driven as men, yet are so often mislabelled as bossy or outspoken which discourages a lot of us from speaking up and, as a result, we make ourselves smaller. Michelle suggested having an accountability buddy with which to share your career goals, someone who can support and encourage you in achieving them. As a quick assignment, everybody in the room then shared a specific goal for the year with their neighbor bringing a real sense of affirmation and comradery to the room.
- Finally, Michelle encouraged us all to challenge the status quo. To be different in order to get different. Recruiters shouldn’t be afraid to change up their way of hiring, even if that’s just editing the way a profile is written. And most importantly, she encouraged everybody to find a way to not only speak up but to be heard.
Being bold for change
A fruitful and insightful Q&A session followed Michelle’s talk which then spilled into a lively discussion that became a learning experience for all. Women shared anecdotes and learnings from within the tech industry, plus how they have, and still plan to, implement change.
The night went far beyond our expectation and was a remarkable learning experience for all. A huge thank you to our speakers and attendees who made this meetup both challenging and refreshing for everyone involved.
When someone is offered a seat at the table, it represents an opportunity to be heard and to inspire those around you. And last night certainly felt like a step in the right direction.