This week in our WiC roundup: How companies can get past performative activism; steps to support women at work; Melinda Gates does it again; and more.

Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor

June 26, 2020

5 Min Read
WiCipedia: How tech can evolve beyond performative activism

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: How companies can get past performative activism; steps to support women at work; Melinda Gates does it again; and more.

  • Tech has a history of performative activism – press releases about commitment to diversity, hiring goals, heartstrings marketing... and not much actual change. In response, Fast Company wrote an open letter to tech companies to tell them how to make a difference. After the #MeToo movement, which made only a small dent in harassment and discrimination in the industry, more needs to be done so that the Black Lives Matter movement a lasting effect. So how can companies make that happen? Maelle Gavet, author of the forthcoming book "Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech's Empathy Problem and How to Fix It," says that we have to reinvent history to expect a different outcome. We can't keep relying on the same old tactics if we want real, substantive change. In short, it comes down to companies asking questions about their values, their intentions and their methods: Asking why they do things the way they do and if they're really, truly effective. Asking about repercussions for bad actors who may be high up on the hiring chain, and how strong their commitment to a cause might be. This is no easy feat. As Gavet puts it, "It will take time, perseverance, participation of everyone, and a lot of empathy to find some answers." (See WiCipedia: How companies can align values with profits.) Figure 1: Is tech ready for its butterfly moment? (Source: Pixabay) (Source: Pixabay)

    • Women have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, so Forbes compiled a list of 10 ways to help women at work during a crisis. From simply building awareness to supporting the whole person (instead of just the part that produces content/makes money) to providing resources that will get them to the next level, there are lots of moves companies can make to elevate female (and other minority) employees. And if you're all about that podcast life, we highly recommend this list of 10 podcasts about diversity and inclusion at work. There are some real changemakers in this list who may just give you some new ideas on approaching complex issues. (See WiCipedia: COVID-19 layoffs affect women more.)

    • As if Melinda Gates hasn't done enough for gender equality, she's now committing $30 million to organizations that are attempting to "expand women's power and influence" in the US over the next decade. This is in addition to the $1 billion that Gates previously set aside for the gender equality battle, Biz Journals reports. The initial $20 million will be through Gates's Pivotal Ventures' Equity Can't Wait Challenge, and it will be dispersed between two main initiatives, with smaller amounts of the remaining $10 million divvied up between finalists. Gates stated, "The entrenched inequalities that divide America – race, gender, class – will not go away without systems-wide change. This challenge is seeking bold ideas to dismantle the status quo and expand power and influence for women of all backgrounds." (See WiCipedia: Tech's Litigation 'Wake-Up Call' & Gates Donates $1B for Gender Equality.)

    • Board diversity often means getting more women at the table. Unfortunately, racial board diversity is years behind. HR Dive explains that only 4.6% of Fortune 500 board members are women of color (compared to 17.9% of White women). Interestingly, while 44% of White board members were formerly CEOs of companies, only 19% of BIPOC board members have held those high-up roles, instead bringing niche business or division head experience. So racially diversifying a board might not be so simple; we may need to start at the C-suite instead. Yet there are a plethora of barriers for people of color who are aiming for the corner office, explains an article in Bloomberg, and unconscious bias – either through "subtle slights or outright discrimination" – runs deep in the tech industry. For a detailed history and stories of those who have persevered despite the bias, we strongly recommend reading through the article. (See WiCipedia: Diverse Boards Are the Future & UK Gov't Deals With Online Abuse.)

    • A new report from a large nonprofit tech training program, ​NPower, has released two years of data on Black and Latinx women who are pursuing careers in tech, and the challenges they faced along the way. In a press release, the CEO of NPower, Bertina Ceccarelli, said that the report is one of the biggest of its kind and focuses specifically on women of color from underserved areas and what it took for them to access education and training in their chosen field. The goal of the study is to increase the amount of women (both teachers and students) in the NPower tech training program to 40% in the next year and a half. The research was funded with a $1.64 million two-year grant from the Citi Foundation's Breaking Through, Rising Up: Strategies for Propelling Women of Color in Technology program. (See WiCipedia: A post-pandemic restructuring opportunity for WiT.)

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

About the Author(s)

Eryn Leavens

Special Features & Copy Editor

Eryn Leavens, who joined Light Reading in January 2015, attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before earning her BA in creative writing and studio arts from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. She also completed UC Berkeley Extension's Professional Sequence in Editing.

She stumbled into tech copy editing after red-penning her way through several Bay Area book publishers, including Chronicle Books, Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull Press and Seal Press. She spends her free time lifting heavy things, growing her own food, animal wrangling and throwing bowls on the pottery wheel. She lives in Alameda, Calif., with two cats and two greyhounds.

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