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This week in our WiC roundup: Harassment numbers in tech aren't improving; working moms of color find scholarship opportunity with The Mom Project; tech conferences aren't structured for women; and more.
October 2, 2020
This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Harassment numbers in tech aren't improving; working moms of color find scholarship opportunity with The Mom Project; tech conferences aren't structured for women; and more.
HR reps have been preaching the importance of diversity training to tech companies nonstop lately, which is why it was such a surprise (or was it...) that the Trump administration introduced its new Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, which effectively bans federal contractors from conducting diversity training. That term – federal contractors – is misleading, as it makes it sound like branches of the government itself would be barred from hosting employee training. In reality, many contractors are actually tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Should these companies continue to accept federal contracts, they might be prohibited from schooling employees on any sort of bias or harassment training. These are the very same companies often accused of major infractions against female employees and people of color. Just let that sink in. Sean Perryman, The Internet Association's director of social impact policy, said, "This EO [executive order] is an overreach by the administration and undermines all the meaningful work being done by civil liberty groups, industry and other stakeholders to build a more inclusive workforce." (See WiCipedia: A post-pandemic restructuring opportunity for WiT.) Figure 1: It's the end of the world as we know it And no one feels fine.
The #MeToo movement began three years ago, yet there's evidence that despite all the policy changes and attention to the issue of harassment and discrimination that it brought, little has been done to create a lasting impact. PC Mag summarized the findings of a study from Women Who Tech, which shows that 55% of people do not think that there have been positive or negative changes since the movement started; rather, the tech industry seems to be at a standstill. Nearly half of the women interviewed have been victims of harassment, with 36% of those women reporting incidents in the past calendar year. Female founders have it worse, with an overwhelming 65% of founders in 2017 experiencing an offer of funding in exchange for sex. In 2020, that number decreased to 59%. (If I could use the facepalm emoji in this article, I would.) (See WiCipedia: Founders battle anti-racism, fight for equal-opportunity funding.)
Built in Chicago announced that The Mom Project, a Chicago-based platform that aims to help working moms find tech jobs, has launched a new nonprofit program. MomProject.org, otherwise known as RISE, will provide scholarships to 10,000 working moms of color so they can secure jobs in the IT sector. The program is specifically geared towards women of color as they have been hit hardest by job losses in the COVID-19 pandemic. "Women of color are in the fight of their lives and we can't sit on the sidelines," CEO Allison Robinson said in a statement. The Mom Project has ties to 2,000 various companies, so upon graduation from the program, recipients can expect to be matched with a job placement. (See WiCipedia: Startup School Scholarships, Losing Lena & UK Pay Discrepancies.)
AnitaB.org's tenth annual report, titled "Top Companies for Women Technologists," explains that we can expect to see equal representation of women in tech in roughly 12 years. Summarized by CNBC, the findings compiled data from 51 participating companies of all sizes, though many of the biggest names in tech were not included. The report looked at both gender and racial configurations of companies and found a steady, if small, increase in the number of women in tech positions year-over-year. If these numbers progress at the same pace for the next decade, it could be 2032 before we see real representation equality. (See WiCipedia: Falling short of the 2020 gender equality goal.)
Recently, we reported that one in four female keynote speakers at tech conferences experience sexual harassment, which seems like a number for the records. Yet new research from Ensono explains that women who simply attend tech events experience discrimination at even higher levels, The Fintech Times reports. One in three women report gender-based harassment or discrimination (and the number only rises for women of color), and more than 60% of women feel that the events are simply not set up for women. For example, attendees reported "barstools as onstage seating causing problems for skirt-wearing panelists, microphones designed to clip onto suit lapels making it awkward to attach to a dress, equipment like projectors and screens too high up for women to reach," and additionally, some of the venues didn't even provide restrooms specifically for women. (See WiCipedia: When tech and politics collide.)
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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