Somehow, it still feels like one step forward, two steps back for women in the workplace. I’m talking specifically about women in technology.
As the only female attorney at a Danish law firm, co-founder of a microchip company, and president of a start-up computer manufacturer, I’ve seen first-hand how much ground women in the workplace have gained over the years. But it’s not enough. And I want to share my vision for a different future.
Remember that Google memo from August? And the newspaper coverage and social media dust-up that followed? I do. Such animosity toward women in the workplace is unacceptable, and, frankly, baffling to see in 2017. This supposedly “legitimate” debate on whether women are biologically unfit for jobs in technology is simply wrong, and it’s damaging to women everywhere.
Diversity in the tech industry is not just good for individuals, families, and society as a whole; it’s good for business.
To write off half our population—and more than 50% of all undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degree-holders—as being poorly suited to contribute to one of the world’s most competitive industries is short-sighted. Why? Perhaps my state’s senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, said it best: “Until every woman and girl in the U.S. reaches her potential, this country will not reach its potential.”
The same could be said for people of color. Their presence in the tech industry is not just good for individuals, families, and society as a whole; it’s good for business. Racial and gender diversity in teams leads to better decision-making, greater innovation, and ultimately higher returns. As president of a technology company, I want to know that the ideas generated by my team reflect the needs of the market, which is why the faces around the table should be as varied as those outside our walls.
Debunking the myth.
When women and girls hear—again and again—that they are not fit to sit at that table, fewer of them will pursue an education in science, technology, engineering, or math. And for those who have already broken the barrier? Their skills and aptitude are constantly called into question. It’s no wonder these women feel challenged every single day.
Studies show that most women in STEM fields who leave their jobs or change career paths do so not to achieve work-life balance, but to escape an uncomfortable work environment.
The ideas generated by my team must reflect the needs of the market, which is why the faces around the table should be as varied as those outside our walls.
At Bak USA, we hire the best people, period. To do so, we don’t just find the person with the best resume. We also look beyond the paper trail to find the personal drive, talent, and spirited character traits that will propel our shared success. It would be narrow-minded to think that these attributes are held by one demographic only.
Sadly, it is not hard to draw a line from missives like the Google memo to the condition that my company faces today; we have close to zero female applicants for jobs in engineering, hardware development, and software development. This could be due to a skills gap, the fact that we’re located in Buffalo, New York (a traditionally “non-tech” city), or the reality that qualified female applicants no longer wish to put themselves forward for consideration.
It is the responsibility of employers like me to implement a hiring protocol that reflects social values.
Whatever the cause, I know that my team would be better with more gender diversity. And every card-carrying member of tech’s “boys’ club”—whether he garners headlines, makes hiring or promotion decisions, or subtly belittles his coworkers—makes it that much harder to achieve that.
First, we must stop repeating this idea about women being biologically unsuited for technology or leadership positions. Believe me, I’ve met and worked with formidable women. I’ve seen female contributions to science, math, and business. The suggestion that this is not possible is simply unfounded and unprofessional.
We need to support and sustain girls’ interest in STEM.
Second, we need to support and sustain girls’ interest in STEM. How? At Bak USA, we conduct tours, host workshops, and welcome employees’ kids. We invite schools and camps in our community to visit our product workshop, to see how our computers are built, and to engage hands-on learning in a high-tech setting. Our dream is that these kids will pursue a career in tech because they saw a place for themselves in a setting like Bak USA.
Third, it is the responsibility of employers like me to implement a hiring protocol that reflects our shared social values. By establishing a company culture that celebrates diversity, we can create a work environment that challenges us to learn, grow, and view the world from new perspectives. To me, the best candidate is the person who has the best resume combined with an incomparable personal drive, talent, and ability to thrive in our socially diverse environment.
Bak USA is on the cusp of hiring its 100th employee and we continue to grow. To fill our needs and meet the demands of our customers, Bak USA is currently seeking applicants to fill the following positions:
Automation & Robotics Technician
Business Outreach Specialist
Customer Experience Specialist
Director, Talent Acquisition
Field Sales Manager
Manager, Customer Experience
Manager, Expansion Projects
Sales Support Specialist
I encourage all of you to explore every opportunity we have to offer.
To promote diversity in tech, we’ll be posting short videos of different women in our workforce starting Wednesday, Oct. 11.