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WiCipedia: Ageism, Diversity Training & Tackling Algorithms

Eryn Leavens
4/19/2019

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Diversity training is on the rise; algorithm bias will be a thing of the past; ageism is biggest hurdle in tech hiring; and more.

  • Think being a woman in tech is challenging? Try being a woman over the age of 40. Ageism in tech is a prevalent issue, made even messier by companies that strive to build a cohesive office culture and the pressure to rapidly learn emerging technologies at the drop of an iPad. Forbes says that age bias starts at age 36, and that 43% of tech workers have a fear of being fired or laid off due to their "advanced" age. Entrepreneurs over the age of 45 receive 40% less VC funding for both men and women, and many companies also harbor an implicit "parent bias" and don't want to feel like they have an "office mom." This is particularly an issue at the all-inclusive mega-tech companies that often provide every amenity that a worker could want, with the intention of keeping employees on site for as long as possible. Older workers are more likely to have complicated lives full of personal responsibilities, and this type of company leaves little room for a fully formed human, instead preferring workers who more closely resemble ping pong-playing robots. (See WiCipedia: Moms at Work, Ageism in Tech & Girls in Boys' Clubs.)

  • While gender bias is prevalent across the board, diversity training is more common than you might think. CNBC explains that eight out of ten tech companies provide gender diversity training -- a number that is steadily on the rise in the afterglow of the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements. Not only do the training programs hopefully limit the number of harassment and discrimination cases, they also attract more diverse applications to the company. That's if they're done right, of course. Sara Taylor, president and founder of deepSEE Consulting, which provides diversity and inclusion training for organizations, told CNBC, "You need a systemic, sustainable approach. Check-the-box training is not going to make a difference." (See WiC: Redrawing the Line for Sexual Harassment .)

    It Takes All Kinds to Build an Effective Team
    (Source: Pixabay)
    (Source: Pixabay)

  • Women rule the roost at social media darling Instagram, and have lots to say about women's roles in tech and the impact they have had on the culture and progress of the industry. An article in Hypebae interviews four heavy hitters at IG, which has more than 1 billion active monthly users. Besidone Amoruwa, head of emerging talent partnerships, focuses on forecasting and stressed the importance of women making an impact in tech: "Women have opportunities and are important to the future of the industry -- when we are included and we use our voices. We haven't just made history, we're a part of it too." Brooke Ozaydinli, product marketing manager, explained that for girls to get interested in tech, they need to see role models who look like them, especially on social media: "The base line isn't where it needs to be so there's nowhere to go but up. More and more women, of all backgrounds, will choose careers in tech and social media only makes these career paths more visible." (See WiCipedia: Gender Editors, Twitter Reform & How to Be Decent.)

  • Melinda Gates isn't happy about the state of tech. Despite being one of the most proactive and successful women in tech, she told The New York Times that rage "about the injustices she has seen" fuels her, and that diversity and a focus on the very real issues that infiltrate our modern-day lives should be top of mind. Gates just released a new book, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, which chronicles her time spent traveling and talking to women from various cultures about their experiences, as well as her own life story. Based on these experiences, she doesn't feel enough is being done to address real humanitarian issues and thinks the app-for-every-purpose boom should be halted: "I would love to see more tech innovation on behalf of the world. 'Let's create the next thing that tracks my dog' -- that's fun and nice, but come on, there are people dying." (See WiCipedia: Lyft Assesses Diversity Growth & Melinda Gates Tackles Gender Imbalance.)

  • On the heels of a new California law that requires tech boards to have at least one female board director by the end of 2019, lawmakers are now hard at work on a new law to eliminate bias at tech companies. Radio station KFGO reports that the efforts, called the Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2019, will focus on combating "discriminatory biases embedded in computer models." Democratic Senator Ron Wyden explained that algorithms affect every facet of our modern lives, and when we allow them to employ biases, we disallow women and minorities to have access to the same privileges as their white, male counterparts -- life events like buying a house and getting a job. While many Democrats are fully supporting the bill, it will be an "uphill battle" to get past the stodgy Republicans who don't want to enact change. (See WiCipedia: Companies With Values Should Be the Norm.)

    — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading

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    Duh!
    Duh!
    4/19/2019 | 2:55:34 PM
    Re: Valuing all kinds of diversity still needed in tech
    Ageim is a problem for men as well as women.

    There is a shortage of technology and marketing talent. Yet companies applicant tracking systems apparently discard experienced professionals out of hand.

    Of the current 'hot' networking technologies, most are re-inventions of ideas developed decades ago. I understand that university-level telecom and networking curricula do not cover historical alternatives to the Ethernet/IP paradigm. Young engineers come up with "new" ideas that are actually approaches left by the wayside. One or two people who've been there can save a lot of wasted steps.

    Thought leaders in the HR community know better, but CHROs still aren't putting much effort into it, in the ways that they are for other kinds of diversity issues.
    ErynLeavens
    ErynLeavens
    4/19/2019 | 11:31:20 AM
    Re: Valuing all kinds of diversity still needed in tech
    Thanks so much for weighing in, Karen! I definitely agree that the wider range of people tech companies employ the more successful and ultimately profitable they will be, not to mention representative of their audience. It seems that the concern in the 30-45 year old range is juggling family responsibilies (e.g., not wanting a "mom" in the office) and above that age range it's a concern that employees won't be able to catch on to new technologies as fast as those in a younger age bracket. So silly! You're right - innovative comes at every age. 
    Karen J
    Karen J
    4/19/2019 | 9:25:18 AM
    Valuing all kinds of diversity still needed in tech
    Thanks for creating further awareness on these issues. Having been in tech (and with ample experience in other industries) for a number of years, the limitations on the growth of a business that doesn't embrace all kinds of diversity are profound. And in today's world, the lack of embracing it is the lowest I've seen in my career. 

    Age bias does seem to raise it's head rather early. As a person who is older, my peers and I  do NOT "have more complicated lives full of personal responsibilities" rather they are very simplified. Kids are grown and gone (if we had kids), the mortgage is no longer a significant burden, the car is paid, etc.

    I recommend being open to considering a person as an individual instead of fitting into a category. Some of the most innovative people are older - and some younger. And some of the best workers in general are older - and some younger. Figure out what each person can bring to the table for the organization. It may be surprising when actually engaging with a person to learn the value they can bring to an org. 
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