At the height of the #MeToo campaign, here a few steps that can create meaningful change for local women working in technology.
The crusade for gender equity in the workplace appears to be at a tipping point. I’ve been feeling sick to my stomach following the horrific stories of child sex abuse revealed against former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar.
But this is also the first time in my career covering women in the workplace that I’ve seen gender equity featured heavily across the international stage like it was last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Thanks to the momentum created by the #MeToo campaign, greater attention is being paid to how women are treated across industries.
My question is — what comes next? How do we drive and sustain meaningful change?
More men are stepping forward as allies for women, seeking solutions to issues of pervasive gender inequity. But Seattle-area tech worker Caty Caldwell says men who truly want to be part of the change must stand in solidarity with women, not simply call themselves allies.
“I’ve been in tech for 10 years, and some of the most abusive folks I’ve met have been men who identify as allies for gender equity,” says Caldwell. “There is a difference between being an ally and showing solidarity — and I’m invested in solidarity.”
According to Caldwell, allies view the struggle for gender equity as a women’s cause that they help out in, while showing solidarity is when men perceive gender equity as their own struggle.
Caldwell was one of the organizers of a panel last week focused on what tech workers, particularly men, could do to fight sexual harassment and gender discrimination in local workplaces. The group also recently released the results of a December 2017 survey that was conducted by circulating an anonymous Google form that asked questions about respondents’ experiences with gender-based discrimination and harassment at tech companies in the greater Seattle area. Of the 324 respondents to the survey, a whopping 81 percent said they had experienced harassment or discrimination in their local technology jobs. But only 1 out of 3 reported it, and of those who did report it, only 25 percent said their management took appropriate action to rectify the issue.
“This isn’t one person’s struggle; this affects all our communities,” Caldwell tells me. “We will only get better if we all realize that no one benefits when women are treated unfairly.”
So what are some tangible steps tech (and other) organizations could do to address sexual harassment? I asked.
Tech workers must collectively push HR departments and company leadership to be transparent with data on inequities, she says.
“We should be able to get information on how many [harassment and discrimination] cases were open last year and how many resulted in ‘inconclusive,’” Caldwell says.
She also calls for the end of nondisclosure agreements and arbitration for employees who have experienced discrimination, harassment or sexual abuse on the job. “Those are gag orders for survivors,” she says.