This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Women in prison gain coding skills; small startups make the biggest impact; greedy workplaces hurt women; and more.
With the scarcity of women in attendance at the majority of tech conferences, one might think that events specifically intended for women would be a great opportunity. Yet a recent article in The Next Web asks if women-only conferences could actually be harmful to gender quality. While many advocates believe they are "necessary to achieve gender equality," others feel "these events can create a bigger gap when men feel excluded from the conversation." While the events aren't intending to practice exclusion, creating a safe and inclusive space can also have the effect of segregation or isolation. On the other hand, is it that big of a deal if men feel a little excluded for once?! (See WiCipedia: 'You Are Either Sexually Objectified or the Housewife' – MWC19 and WiCipedia: Empty Restrooms, Mom 2.0 Summit & 'Brilliant Jerks' Culture.)
Coding is being taught in an unlikely place these days: prison. The Eagle, a Texas newspaper, reports that a small group of women at a Topeka, Kan., prison are being offered what equates to a coding boot camp in the hopes of attaining software engineer jobs once they get out. The program is through the non-profit The Last Mile, which was developed at San Quentin, and provides business and tech training to imprisoned people. "It is very complex, but it is very worthwhile," said Brittany Leija, an inmate who hopes to provide for her family after completing the year-long course. "I think that the opportunities are endless once we get up and going, and that there's a lot of good jobs as far as web design goes and the way that technology is developing outside of here. It's just something that's always going to be in demand." (See WiCipedia: After-School Coding, Salary Probing & Pro-Parenthood Companies.)
The New York Times dug deep into the history of the gender gap and the reasons behind it in a recent article. Titled "Women Did Everything Right. Then Work Got 'Greedy'," the article blames "working long, inflexible hours" for the inequality between men and women at work, and explains that women are expected to do the majority of family care and men are given more opportunities at work because they have fewer outside responsibilities. "It just so happens that in most couples, if there's a woman and a man, the woman takes the back seat," says Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard who writes about inequality. To sum it up: "Women don't step back from work because they have rich husbands, [Goldin] said. They have rich husbands because they step back from work." (See WiCipedia: The AI Diversity Struggle, Companies Aren't Prioritizing Equality & New-Mom Decisions and WiCipedia: Parental Leave Pressure & Canning Cultural Fit.)
Project Include's Ellen Pao told USA Today that it's not the mega-tech companies like Google and Facebook that will change the industry's stance on sexism, ageism and pretty much every other ism you can name. Instead, startups will be the wave of change in the future. While the tech titans' numbers have hardly budged despite efforts towards diversification, Pao explained, "Bigger companies are really stuck. They embedded all of these biases into all of their operations. So we focused on startups because we thought, that's where you are going to see the change... We saw that the top startups in our program could get to very high numbers of underrepresented groups in their workforces, so it gives me hope that people can do that across all types of startups and eventually across all of tech." Turns out the little guy can make the biggest impact after all. (See Ellen Pao Returns to VC to Tackle Tech Diversity.)
The term "woman-led company" has been popularized lately to show that diversity is a priority, yet what does this non-specific term really mean? The Globe & Mail picked apart this descriptor, and found that companies with even one woman on the leadership team are latching onto this term in order to appear committed to diversity and raise funding. The article explains that many Canadian companies have recently hired one woman for an all-male team to meet basic quotas for applying for diversity funding -- not exactly an above-board move. Clearly, a proper definition (and some regulations) are needed here. (See WiCipedia: Companies With Values Should Be the Norm.)