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What Happens When Women in Tech Speak Up?

Valerie Martinelli ConsultingNewsWhat Happens When Women in Tech Speak Up?

This week, according to Vox, the women at Microsoft are calling it a toxic place to work as alleged discrimination and harassment cases begin to surface after an internal email chain was made public.

The tech industry has long-held the reputation for mistreating their female employees, assigning them what I call “busy work”, and not taking their careers seriously. While women make up over half the workforce, we certainly have a way to go in the tech industry. Inc. recently published some data on the status of women in tech:

  • Women average only 30% of the workforce across major tech companies.
  • This 30% includes both technical and non-technical jobs, such as HR and marketing. Women can’t even hit 20% when it comes to technical jobs at tech companies. They hold merely 17 percent of the tech jobs at Google, 15 percent at Facebook, and only 10 percent at Twitter.
  • Out of the 41 of the Fortune 500 companies in the tech industry, only 5 have a female CEO.
  • Women hold just 14.3% of board seats of the top 100 tech companies.
  • Men are 2 times as likely to be hired for a role in math when the only difference between candidates is their gender, according to a 2013 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • Approximately 40% of women with engineering degrees either don’t enter the field at all or quit soon thereafter. In addition, women in tech with business degrees also have the tendency to quit the industry before rising in rank.

With stats such as these, women have it hard enough to launch their careers in tech- let alone to seek advancement while dealing with alleged harassment.

More than likely, the women who work at Microsoft involved in this complaint are facing an uphill battle and my advice is to also consider your own well-being and careers.

This recent news indicates that Microsoft may have a culture problem. Once sexual harassment complaints are made and allegedly ignored, it is a sign that an organization needs to start taking steps to not only rectify the issues with its female workforce but to initiate cultural change and work with its senior leadership towards what they want their male workforce to represent. Consistently denying women promotions while men are running circles around them advancing and they’re only doing secretarial work is toxic. In addition, sexual harassment is demeaning and can do a lot of damage to one’s psyche.

As someone who dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace only to have it denied and told it was “my fault”- it creates the most impossible circumstances to work and succeed in. I had projects rejected, was told that my work was sub-par, and that I wasn’t ever going to succeed. It became clear to me that change was not on the horizon, let alone in the cards- so I took my career into my own hands instead of letting it be defined it for me.

Women’s caliber is equal to their male counterparts and they are deserving of so much more and there are organizations who be happy to have them as part of their workforce.

If these allegations are true, Microsoft needs to take active steps towards changing its corporate culture, such as Uber did.

Anyone who understands corporate culture, knows that it refers to the beliefs and behaviors which determine how an organization’s employees and management interact. It develops organically over time from the traits of the individuals an organization hires. This accumulation of traits is what can make an organization evolve and become one that is less focused on equality, diversity, and the advancement of women. However, senior leadership plays an important role by embodying the change that they want to see, caring about its employees’ well-being, and creating a workplace in which everyone can thrive while carrying out the organizational mission and values.

If these are allegations are true, this is where Microsoft needs to make deep-seeded changes because their culture has evolved over time and it now reflects the traits of those hires that are sexually harassing women, rather than those that are there to do good work.

These ladies are taking the first step by making their voices heard within Microsoft and the tech industry. They are talented, bright, and accomplished women who have a solid future in front them.

To them, I say, don’t give up.

Even if your company chooses not to hear you, there are women who do and appreciate your efforts towards making change and speaking up. I hear you and I am with you even if you don’t realize it.

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