Speaking at Hopperx1 – the immersive women in tech event run by AnitaB.org – President and CEO Brenda Darden Wilkerson called out some of the most recognised names in the industry: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk – we all know them, and we all know their businesses. But what about the women who made their innovations possible, she asked, who acknowledges them?
Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, Katherine Johnson – how many people would mention the women that have helped lay the foundations for today’s developments? No one is denying that the above are great names, but they’re not the only ones that should come to mind when we think about champions of technology.
So what do we do to combat this? “To achieve equity in the tech sector, we need to recognise the shoulders we are standing on”, says Darden Wilkerson.
As an industry, we’re constantly wondering why if the interest is there, we aren’t seeing the number of women in technology increasing. The issue lies with access and visualisation. In order for females to be in these roles, they need to be able to see themselves in them. Simply exposing more women to tech does not mean giving them access, nor is it giving them a career path.
During her speaker session, Nicola Palmer, Head of Corporate & Operational Information Systems at Eurostar International shared a quote on-screen…
“They used to give us a day – it was called International Women’s Day. In 1975 they gave us a year, the Year of the Woman. Then from 1975 to 1985 they gave us a decade, the Decade of the Woman. I said at the time, who knows, if we behave they may let us into the whole thing. Well, we didn’t behave and here we are.”
These words come from Bella Abzug, an American lawyer, the first Jewish female member of Congress and a leader of the Women’s Movement. Women like Bella are proof that not only are females “perfectly able to advocate”, as Brenda called out, but also perfectly able to drive change. They just need to understand that they too belong and deserve to be advocates, innovators and founders of technology.
While Palmer went on to talk about why women’s so-called ‘soft skills’ are anything but soft – including how they make companies more profitable, innovative and respected – Darden Wilkerson asked “when was the last time you heard someone reference a male technologist, as if our oestrogen has something to do with the code we create?”
She summarised by saying that “no one should have gender as a qualifier”, just as we shouldn’t have name, age, race or relationship status. Claiming people still tell her “it’s nice to see a woman on stage”, she says “it’s not nice, it’s normal” and that’s something I think we could all get a little better at believing.
When was the last time you heard someone reference a male technologist, as if our estrogen has something to do with the code we create?