Today is International Women’s Day. You may not realize this, but as of 2022 women held only 28% of roles in tech with even lower representation at higher grade levels. In data, security, and infrastructure, there are even fewer of us.
I got where I am today not only because of the strong women in my life, but very much because of the men who supported me, particularly early in my career and even now when I am not in the room. Advocacy matters, and we cannot change the ratio without the entire tech community stepping up to embrace equity. Equity is not the same as equality–this is a distinction that Cloudflare has particularly educated me upon.
Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
In tech we need to do a better job of bringing people up and into the dialogue. I fully thank the bosses, colleagues, and partners in my life who held the door open for me. I see you and I am grateful. AND we need to do more to make sure the doors are easier for our next generation.
Today, and every day, those of us in leadership need to encourage, enable, and support other women and underrepresented minorities to stay engaged in tech despite the challenges of being the “only” or the “few.” We are stronger and better together. This means making sure if you observe bias you call it out, and speak up for equity. It also means recognizing the additional burden agents of change feel and giving them support.
That also means stating my commitment to others: for those of you earlier in your careers who are struggling, know that you are not alone. Please ask for help, reach out, and know I am here to help. Also, you need to help yourself. Build your support system, your sponsors, your mentors, and your advocates, so you can continue to thrive.
In life we will all face bias. You will be underestimated. The world will not always be fair. For the record, you too have bias. I was recently confronted in a meeting for speaking about a leader whose story inspired me, and reminded by a fellow woman in tech that leader was incredibly racist and very much a product of imperialism. Our history is not perfect, and it is hard to have a discussion about any historical figure who would measure up to our current ideals. Do we stop focusing on the lessons worth learning from history because the people are flawed? I don’t believe we can, AND I’m glad that person spoke up to help me see the pain it caused her, so I could be more nuanced in my commentary. Every day we get the chance to learn, if we make a space where people are willing to speak up and share their differences of opinion.
I personally find faith in one simple fact: we learn more in times of struggle than we do in success. We can only make the world better if we stay in the fight. It is a struggle to be different, to be a change agent, and advocates can speak up for you, but they cannot know what it is to walk in your shoes. All we can do is come together, hold each other’s hands, and give each other grace to learn and grow, so we can keep moving forward together.