The Black experience in tech encompasses many difficult truths. From woeful underrepresentation to unconscious bias to outright racism, the only way to make change is to start discussing the realities honestly and openly.
In 1973, the United States Congress declared August 26 as Women’s Equality Day to commemorate the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. In 2021, women’s participation in the workforce has dropped to a 33-year low, as they’ve been forced to forgo their careers amid the pandemic.
In January of 2021, 80% of workers aged 20+ who left the workforce were women.
The statistics for women who are not White are far more dire, with COVID laying bare the inequities that people of color still face in a world that some folks love to fancy as evolved.
Let’s be clear: the only reason such disparities exist today is because we continue to talk about what we’re doing to change things, while not actually doing much to change them.
Some stats for you on Women’s Equality Day 2021
To give you an idea of where we are today, in searching for stats on workforce statistics in 2021 with regard to gender, one of the top returns included a line about things not being so gloomy. (No, it was not written by a woman.)
Here are some statistics to consider while some folks are attempting to celebrate the current state of things on Women’s Equality Day, although there are many more:
- The global gender gap will take an extra 36 years to close after the pandemic. It’ll be around 135.6 years before women and men reach parity on a range of factors worldwide, versus the 99.5 years cited in 2020.
- 1 in 3 women not working in July cited childcare issues as the reason, and Pew found that mothers of children 12 and under were three times more likely than fathers to have lost work between February and August. Latina and Black women have been hit hardest.
- In 2021, women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.
- Women in senior positions report higher levels of exhaustion and burnout than men, with 54% vs. 41% citing exhaustion and 39% vs. 29% citing burnout.
- Women who show promise early amid academic careers have fewer leadership prospects in the workplace.
The bias in venture capital funding is stark: Companies with Black women at the helm get less than zero percent of VC funding.
Why, though? Understanding key aspects that contribute to the state of things with regard to (in)equality
While COVID-19 has played a huge hand in furthering the gaps in equity and equality, these issues were always there – we’d not moved the needle on gender equality since 2016 in February of 2020. Why is that? Let’s start with mental load.
Mental load is a term for the invisible labor involved in managing a household and family, which usually falls on women.
“I think it (mental load) has become a topic of discussion in recent years in part because men are contributing more to the care of children and the household, and even though women may be physically doing fewer loads of laundry, women are realizing that they continue to hold the responsibility for making sure it gets done—that the detergent doesn’t run out, that all of the dirty clothes make it into the wash, that there are always clean towels available, and that the kids have clean socks,” notes Lucia Ciciolla, Ph.D.
When it comes to household responsibilities, women perform far more cognitive and emotional labor than men – this is also known as emotional labor, primarily because of the emotional toll it takes upon women.
The true mark of leadership now is understanding how important it is to use every ounce of power and privilege we have to change things.
Women’s Equality Day: Another factor is that while women are being hired for roles, they’re often not promoted, and lack sponsorship in the workforce.
It takes three or more women on a board averaging nine to 13 members before women are more likely to speak up and actually be heard.
Women in tech has a lot of buzz, but how do we transform that into action? A panel of industry leaders discussed what it means to be a woman in tech, and, most importantly, how to lead the way for other women.
There are a plethora of other issues that factor into this issue, but it’s crucial to point out that while Women’s Equality Day was meant to celebrate earning the right to vote, people of color are still battling for those rights as political parties attempt to continually place barriers to access to polls in hopes to maintain a structure of inequity.
Top businesses are continuing to take a stand to secure the rights of all, today, centuries after this nation was founded upon that exact principle.
We at @SAP believe protecting the right to vote is paramount. We’ve joined 200+ companies to urge Congress to pass the #VotingRightsAct. Democracy works best when every eligible voter can exercise their fundamental right to vote. Read our full letter: https://t.co/bkgR27Oq5e.
— Julia White (@julwhite) August 6, 2021
Women are also far less likely to apply for a job unless they feel that they meet every criteria, while men with fewer qualifications don’t feel the need to doubt themselves; this is a result of hundreds of years of bias. Fortunately, women are beginning to recognize this, and are helping others do the same:
Women also face tremendous bias in nearly every aspect of the world, from education to health care, and we’ve watched as people rant and rage against being vaccinated, noting it should be a personal choice when it comes to what happens to a persons body, but this fall, Roe versus Wade is once again upon the Supreme Court docket.
Moments after Sen. Jeff Flake announced he would vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, two women confronted him in an elevator: "Look at me when I’m talking to you! You’re telling me that my assault doesn’t matter" https://t.co/gKGMfvvidm pic.twitter.com/v7jGjyXC0J
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) September 28, 2018
Yes, this is an uncomfortable topic, but it contributes to the absolute exhaustion and burnout that many women feel when it comes to their own autonomy and freedoms – and all of the above mentioned factors are ongoing in the lives of women, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it adds up.
If you want to make a difference, hire women. Promote women. Actively work toward a society where structures are equal so that women are afforded the same opportunities as men. Call out inequities when seen.
It feels like a different lifetime when I wrote the line, “hammer in one hand, holding the door open with the other”, meant to represent the idea of smashing the glass ceiling, then helping other women also rise.
Today, on Women’s Equality Day 2021, I feel as though the thought of the glass ceiling is almost blissful, because women are facing such stark disparities that we’re not even in a space where a ceiling exists.
It’s up to each person reading this to help drive change and balance the scales in the hopes that next year on this day, we’ll see changes that indicate we really are a people who care for humanity.