Women’s history month is always an opportunity to learn and grow—for every gender, not just women. It’s important to take time to reflect on how far we’ve come. When I started my first job nearly 20 years ago, I adhered to a dress code that required I wear a skirt and pantyhose to work every day. Just 55 years before that, my grandmother got her college degree in home economics as it was one of the few majors available for women. The progress we’ve achieved is tremendous—but this is by no means a time to pat ourselves on the back and become complacent. Quite the contrary. In the immortal words of The Doors, ‘the time to hesitate is through.’ We have a duty to each other to make a seat at the table for everyone, regardless of gender. If we only have women championing diversity and change, we will fail.
Here are four ways that everyone can champion women in tech.
1. Speak up and Speak Out
As TSA says, “if you see something, say something.” If you see discrimination, use your voice to make it known. It doesn’t even have to be confrontational. Suggest having an equal balance of gender identities and races in the next committee you’re on. Look into your job descriptions to uncover unconscious language bias. Encourage diversity studies as part of your campaign strategy to discover any blind spots in your marketing efforts. By continually evaluating your processes, you can find bias easier and stop it before it becomes a problem.
Mentorship is an amazing opportunity to create allies in the workplace. No matter your age, orientation, or identity, you have commonalities with someone else at your company. You also have something to offer: your experience & knowledge. Even new to the workforce employees provide value to their advanced age counterparts. Consider reverse mentorship, where younger employees are paired with more advanced employees to shed light on new technologies and the changing workforce. This type of mentorship provides benefit for both in that the unique experiences which both have had provides insight into another person’s life.
3. Attend a Women’s Event
Women’s events are not just for cisgender women. Many events which have “women” in the name are, yes, overwhelmingly filled with female attendees. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Step outside of your comfort zone! Learning about the challenges that those around you face is the path to understanding. It can also be a way to uncover biases you might not know you have. Take the opportunity to learn something new and to listen. You might be surprised at what you come to understand.
4. Start a Conversation
Asking questions isn’t always easy but it truly is the way to learn about others. Take the time to talk to an employee outside of your team who you might not normally interact with. Join a committee where you are the minority. Women and other marginalized people are looking for understanding and a path toward change in a timely manner. No one is expecting immediate change or that failure won’t happen along with way. Keep talking. Keep the conversation going to understand what is needed to create an equal workplace. It won’t be the same in every environment but keeping an inquisitive mind and continually asking questions will allow real change to be made.
Diversity in the Workplace is Everyone’s Responsibility
Women’s history month is not the only time that we should be talking about equality and diversity. As we build the foundations of the future, take time to look around you and understand how you can contribute. No matter your age, race, orientation, identity, or otherwise, ensuring diversity can be a challenge but it is the only way forward.
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