Could Women-Centered Groups be Sending the Wrong Message?

The disparity between genders in the tech industry has been widely reported on, so it is no surprise that women-centered groups have recently become a popular way for women to break into a field that has been traditionally male-oriented. In many ways, these groups have made it possible for women to gain a foothold in the tech world, but have they have taken things a bit too far?

Consider for a moment how the news treats women who achieve a prominent position in Silicon Valley. When Marissa Mayer became the first female engineer for Google, she received a lot of media attention for doing nothing more than being qualified enough to break into the quickly growing tech field. At that time, it made sense for a woman’s tech achievement to be newsworthy because Mayer was a pioneer. Now, though, continuously pointing out every step that women take in the tech world may be more polarizing than helpful.

Recent research has discovered that men make up approximately 70 percent of the tech employees in New York. This number may seem abysmal to women, but the truth is that this represents a large influx of female employees during the past decade. There is no reason that this disparity will not continue to gravitate more toward the center, especially if women-centered groups begin to focus more on the strengths of their members instead of on their gender.

How Can Women Help Each Other Rise in the Tech Industry?

Women who are successfully working in the tech field may be tempted to join others in creating a women-centered group. This can even help in some ways because it offers opportunities for mentoring individuals who have an aptitude for technology. But consider for a moment how preconceived notions and existing stigmas are impacted by women who purposefully set themselves apart from their male peers. Is this really the best way to be taken seriously?

Mayer has been the CEO of Yahoo since 2012, and she has famously been quoted as saying that she never uses the gender card. It would be easy to argue that she does not bring up her gender because she wants to avoid potential issues such as the huge public backlash that her decision not to take maternity leave has caused. Perhaps there’s more to all of this, though, and Mayer understands that setting herself apart based solely on her gender is a method that will not provide her with the positive results that she is looking for.

It stands to reason that getting the right education, excelling daily and being supportive of other women within the tech workplace are all great places to start for anyone who cares about gender equality. It is also vital to consider the possibility that each woman’s contribution to the tech industry will be taken more seriously if they do not come from within an exclusionary group that prohibits males from participating.

After all, this is basically the same thing that women have been fighting against since the dawn of the technological age, and it makes no sense to turn around and exclude men in some misguided attempt to raise the profile of today’s tech women. Instead, women should prepare themselves to move forward in the industry without making anything about their gender, race or age. Taking this approach can prevent the accidental alienation of men who would otherwise be very supportive of helping more women find tech work.

Taking Inspiration from History

History has shown again and again that completely segregating ourselves is not the way to achieve sustainable growth. For example, the push to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide required much more than the hard work of LGBT activists. Until the majority of U.S. citizens were on board, including a large percentage of heterosexuals, it was impossible for national legislation to be embraced. This showcases the need to work with other people to bring about real change, and the tech industry is no different.

Getting in the trenches with male coworkers and proving that you are every bit as skilled as them is going to bring about a more meaningful change than joining tech groups that only contain female members. Even if you could launch a company that was focused on promoting women in the tech industry, you would not legally be able to avoid hiring males, just as they are not able to hire only men.

This highlights yet again the importance of encouraging women to dive into the tech field instead of sitting tentatively on the sidelines within a women-centered group. These groups can be a source of support, but they should never replace the drive to actually change things by working within the existing male-dominated tech world. The only way the 70/30 gender split will get closer to 50/50 is if women stop using the gender card and start focusing on everything that they have to offer to the tech industry.

Lisa Froelings

Productivity Consultant at Lisa Froelings
Lisa Froelings is a productivity consultant with over 4 years of experience in human resources working for a major retailer in the US before she decided to build her own small business. Her interests include technology, user experience as well as time management. You may connect with her on Twitter.

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About Lisa Froelings

Lisa Froelings is a productivity consultant with over 4 years of experience in human resources working for a major retailer in the US before she decided to build her own small business. Her interests include technology, user experience as well as time management. You may connect with her on Twitter.

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