When it comes to addressing gender parity in the tech sector, there are a number of truisms that are turned over again and again.
It is an undeniably male-dominated industry, and although great progress has been made, the private and public sector tends to focus on addressing the gender pay gap, celebrating women in senior level positions, and promoting positive role models. While these are really positive initiatives that we should all get on board with, it’s important to recognise the more subtle and pervasive forms of inequality women could be facing.
Challenging everyday inequality
Throughout my career, I have noticed that less attention is paid to the minutiae of the everyday. I am referring to the more elusive office politics that might play a part in keeping women from occupying the most senior positions at a company.
For instance, early in my career when I started out as a project manager in the tech sector, it wouldn’t be uncommon for me to walk into a meeting and be asked by the client to get the tea, despite me being (arguably) the key player in the room – though more often than not, not the only woman. Or, the emotional labour that women are, probably subconsciously, expected to carry in addition to their workloads often greatly exceeds that of their male counterparts.
It is a reality that female team members are still thought of as the readier shoulders to cry on in an office environment – someone to buy the leaving present of a colleague, or birthday cards on behalf of the team. We are considered the members of staff more ‘suited’ to addressing the personal and emotional concerns of colleagues.
It certainly raises the question: why is this the case? Perhaps it comes down to lazy sexism in action, and sometimes, it can feel like an uphill battle from the moment you step into the room to get people to respect and value you. In any case, it is something that we should continually challenge whenever it crops up in the workplace. I believe that it is a heightened awareness of these more subtle behavioural traits, and day-to-day consciousness that can inspire real progress.
A neutral approach
At Studio Graphene, our approach to tackling the gender diversity crisis rests on always keeping this in mind, in addition to taking a ‘proactively neutral’ approach throughout the recruitment process, rather than encouraging any positive discrimination. As a result, we now boast an impressive team of female engineers at our office in India.
This is particularly unusual and encouraging to hear as a woman in the tech industry, given the strict rules in India when it comes to offering six months maternity pay – a prospect that many businesses sadly wish to avoid. The insights of the women working in our Delhi office are emboldening and heart-warming to hear, and should inspire greater confidence in women thinking to get involved in tech.
The words of one of our engineers, Sakshi Goyal, ring particularly true: to properly challenge gender norms in the industry, and in the workforce at large, “we need to think both short term and long term, and break down the walls that institutionally keep women out”. And whether these walls are as tangible as a smaller pay packet, or as pedestrian as finding ourselves responsible for buying someone’s leaving card, it would do us some good to be conscious of them, question them and address them where we can.
Christine Brewis is head of digital marketing at app development company Studio Graphene.