Equal Representation for Women in Tech? More ‘Fuzzy Logic’

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<p>Panelists (foreground) from February’s “Women In Tech - The Latest Silver Bullet” discussion at Apple Pasadena.</p>

Panelists (foreground) from February’s “Women In Tech - The Latest Silver Bullet” discussion at Apple Pasadena.


Yeah, tech companies should hire more women simply because it’s the right thing to do. After all, there is that unstated human obligation to support one another’s efforts to live out our dreams, regardless of race, gender, age and so on. But let’s face it: Business don’t care if it ain’t fair.

Let Go of Weak Arguments

If we want to make our mark in the tech industry, we need to stop relying on weak, fairness-based arguments—because they’re falling on deaf ears. (For the record, I’ve always found these arguments a bit patronizing. Who wants to get hired because she’s a “poor wittle thing who deserves her wittle-bitty chance.” No, hire me because I’m awesome. Thank you, and you’re welcome.) Tech is big business, and business doesn’t care about our daughters’ rights to live out their occupational dreams. And it certainly couldn’t care less about our reproductive apparatuses. But what business does care about is the bottom line.

Start Referring to ‘The Awesome Thing’

The awesome thing is that women have the bottom-line part handled. The data are conclusive: Bringing women to the table has the potential to revolutionize the tech industry on all sorts of levels—from programming and engineering to the board and design rooms. Recent studies even show that having women on the team actually increases return on investment, creates big challenges for competitors and leads to better products and happier customers.

But wait, there’s more! Research shows that teams with female members are more creative, productive and innovative than all-male teams. And businesses with lots of women in leadership are more profitable. These things are important to any industry, but in the rapidly changing, highly competitive tech world, they’re invaluable.

Stop Dwelling on ‘The Un-Awesome Thing’

The un-awesome thing is that the tech world has no idea how much ass we are capable of kicking when given the chance, because we haven’t been given too many of those. But I implore you to resist the temptation to indulge in resentment. Consider how much energy it requires to maintain that sort of emotion, and then consider how very little it accomplishes. If a “tech patriarchy” does exist, the businessmen running it aren’t plotting ways to keep the girls out of the clubhouse—for this, they haven’t the interest nor the time. Because, I promise you, they’re way too busy thinking about that bottom line to be thinking about our feelers. We can stand atop our soapboxes and call it cold, callous and crude, relishing our moment as proud heralds of the truth, or we can call it reality and start figuring out how to get noticed (that is, begin relishing the benefits of success in tech).

No, the real problem isn’t exclusion, it’s invisibility. What we need—like any other noob trying to get into any industry—is to demonstrate our value.

Calling Women Noobs!? Show Our Worth?! How Condescending!

There goes that ineffectual resentment thing again. Does it suck that, in 2017, there are still scant few females in tech leadership roles? Yes, it does. Does that suckiness change the reality of our collective noob-ness? No, it does not. And, what has the fairness argument done for us on the grand scale, anyway? I suggest it’s only served to get us taken even less seriously.

Analyses show that reliance on assumptions, rather than on hard data, is a main reason more tech companies aren’t actively seeking out female employees. For example, when Facebook learned about the abovementioned data (showing that women contribute to company success), they began working to increase their female staff. But, when other company heads have been asked why they believe companies like Facebook are making these efforts, there’s been a common assumption that their efforts are nothing more than a response to “trendy politics.”

But, who can blame them? We haven’t presented them with hard data. We’ve presented them with emotionally charged arguments for equal representation and demands for fairness—the very definition of trendy politics, like it or not.

So, We’re Noobs. Now Let’s Do Something About It.

The diverse team of creatives I work with at Echo-Factory in Pasadena, California, is doing something about it. In early February, we had the very successful first of two panelist discussions titled, “Women in Technology – The Latest Silver Bullet” at the Apple Store downtown. The last one actually happened this morning at the Apple Store in Santa Monica. We’re hoping these events will help get the word out, because we love great business. And women are capable of making the tech industry great. Our panelists prove it.

We’ve had Renée LaBran, Senior Advisor to Idealab, Max Powers, SVP of business operations at TeleSign, Natalie Sun, creative technologist and founder of NextArt, and Anna Barber, managing director at global tech startup accelerator, Techstars, serving as panelists. Our very own chief creative officer, owner, founder and certified genius, Dea Goldsmith, has been serving as moderator to keep things in line. The talks are set up to discuss ways we can all manage the obstacles to getting more women in tech. And to start telling the world how valuable our contribution is to the industry. So far, so good. Both talks were standing room only (you can get the podcast here). And I think the success has a lot to do with the fact that people are ready to start moving forward instead of inward.

Fairness and equal representation are nice things to have, but, in the effort to get more women in tech, those sentiments are clouding the issue more than resolving the problem. The reasons women are underrepresented in tech are unfortunate, and tech companies should hire more women simply because they want to do what’s right. But new data gives women a much more powerful argument for inclusion: kick ass results. Let’s start talking about that.