Every year, March is observed as Women’s History Month, and on March 8th, International Women’s Day is celebrated. In addition, social platforms and news channels are full of videos, posts and pledges from industry leaders and decision-makers to make fundamental changes to uplift women in the workforce.
That is a great thing, but the cycle repeats itself every year. As a first-generation woman of color tech leader, I myself post about #womenintech, #diversityandinclusion all the time on my social networks. But every year, the day after, the month later, and the year after, we make little progress.
The recent study, Women in tech statistics: The latest research and trends (techtarget.com), shows how much work we still have ahead of us, especially in the field of tech for employment parity; be it more women in tech, leadership roles for women, pay quality and even retention. After you read this study, the big question is who is returning to these organizations and asking them to prove that they’ve made a fundamental change. We all know that you need to break a significant goal into smaller, achievable tasks to measure progress and, even more vital, that you are moving in the right direction. As companies announce quarterly results to wall street, which drives their stock performance and perceptions, how can we measure their arrangement on this front? How can we make these companies accountable for reporting quarterly and yearly improvements on their pledges?
During this economic downturn, where layoffs have become a norm, it impacts women more, and the statistics are even worse for minority women. Please read this article How recent tech layoffs can disproportionately affect women and people (fastcompany.com); I’ll be lying if I said that I am shocked to see this, it is so sad, but this has become predictable that women are the first target in a downturn.
As women of color leaders, we are all responsible for being change agents and accountability partners. Women leaders do not want yet another “Silent/Quiet promotion.” We need to pave the path for our future generations. I can’t imagine leaving this problem for my daughter to fix! If you read this Mckinsey report, Women in the Workplace | McKinsey, Women leaders are just as ambitious as men but face headwinds that signal it will be harder to advance. Women are more likely to experience belittling microaggressions, such as having their judgment questioned or being mistaken for someone junior.
Here’s what I want to say to you all, let’s #breakthemyths and #demandchange
Breaking the myth:
You yes you, the women in the workforce
You will be called out for being loud
You will be called out when you ask for more
You will be called out for your decisions
You will be stabbed behind back
You will be passed over for promotions
You will be judged for every decision
You will be asked to tone it down
You will be asked to talk and walk in a certain way
But you, yes you
Keep taking space #metoo
Keep bringing more chairs to the table
Keep your authenticity
Keep your superpowers
Keep learning and growing
Keep being the leader they never saw
Keep being the force multiplier
And oh, Don’t let anyone save you for later, yes!
Because you owe it to the past, who suffered behind you, and the future generations looking at you to stand up for them!
Here are my top 3 tips for being the force multiplier for women in the workforce while doing your job.
1. Speak up and take that seat at the table. You need to discover how indirectly you are paving the path for others. Bring your own self to work and be you.
2. Use your position to ask about the Diversity and Inclusion numbers and nudge on the progress. Keep their measurable metrics visible and force management to keep the D&I metric while they are downsizing
3. Retain your best diverse talent. People say we have a pipeline problem, and they need help finding enough women talent. Unfortunately, we also have a retention problem. Women leave the workforce due to these issues, indirectly discouraging other women from progressing.
Let us all take action and break this empty promises and inaction cycle. We can’t leave this work for future generations.
Harpreet Kaur is a first-generation tech leader at Microsoft and CEO/President of Why Blend In company, whose purpose is to connect underrepresented talent with the right opportunities. Learn more at whyblendin.com.