This week in our WiC roundup: How trans people in tech are faring; the best places for women to work; 'tech-bro gender-blindness'; and more.

Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor

April 9, 2021

6 Min Read
WiCipedia: What makes a good company for female employees?

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: How trans people in tech are faring; the best places for women to work; "tech-bro gender-blindness"; and more.

  • Last week we celebrated Trans Day of Visibility, so there's no better time to examine the role of trans people in tech than now. In many ways, the LGBTQ community has it best in tech, overall an accepting and liberal industry. Yet ABC News explains that there's still a long way to go in making sure that tech companies' trans employees' safety and comfort needs are met, especially with a post-pandemic return to in-person offices. Support groups and more inclusive policies have definitely made an impact on how accepted trans employees feel at work, but they often put all of the pressure specifically on the minority population. Max Masure, a trans nonbinary inclusion strategist, told ABC News: "As trans people, 'we cannot only be the ones educating other people. It gets exhausting.'" The article went on to say that "Trans advocates urge cisgender people to go beyond being allies and become advocates. That could mean asking a company to create gender nonspecific bathrooms or speaking up when a trans person is misgendered or harassed in any way." Much like advocating for racial minorities, if we have privilege, we need to use it for the benefit of others. (See WiCipedia: New inclusivity report for LGBTQ workers and WiCipedia: How to be a better ally.)

    • Elpha, an online community of 35,000-plus women in tech, recently released its survey of the best places for women in tech to work in 2021. The study, compiled of responses from nearly 2,000 respondents, ranked workplaces anonymously based on many different factors, from the role of allies and communities of fellow female employees to the number of women in leadership roles. Perhaps even more interesting than the actual company rankings though were the reasons that women rated companies poorly. As the report states, "Elpha members who rated their companies 1-5 cited poor direct management, microaggressions, and a 'white-male-driven power structure' as contributing to environments they would not recommend to other women... Women also mentioned mansplaining, harassment, and sexism as top causes for low company scores." The company rankings were divided up into a "big guys" category and startups, and while there are a few recognizable names on there, you may notice the absence of many of the mega companies on the list. We'll let you decide if that's happenstance or not. (See WiCipedia: Pandemic culture shifts rank of best cities for WiT.) Figure 1: In other words, how can men mess up the most? (Source: Elpha) (Source: Elpha)

    • An article in the New York Times by ex-Google engineer Emi Nietfeld portrays an unflinching glimpse into what it feels like to be sucked into the Google (or likely any major tech company) vortex. The article, titled "After Working at Google, I'll Never Let Myself Love a Job Again," explores Nietfeld's love affair – and dependence – with all of the perks that the company provided, from the on-site gym to food to pretty much any regular service you can think of. Those perks came with a cost, though. Nietfeld describes how when a superior started sexually harassing her and HR brushed her claims under the rug, she initially thought it was just the cost of working in such an otherwise ideal environment. "Google was the Garden of Eden; I lived in fear of being cast out," she writes. Yet when her harasser, who other women had also accused of unacceptable behavior, wasn't fired, she knew she had to leave. "After I quit, I promised myself to never love a job again. Not in the way I loved Google. Not with the devotion businesses wish to inspire when they provide for employees' most basic needs like food and health care and belonging. No publicly traded company is a family. I fell for the fantasy that it could be," Nietfeld explained. She is currently writing a book about her experience working at Google. (See WiCipedia: Google employees protest and unionize.)

    • A recent article in The Guardian highlights that many tech critics happen to be women. The author, who calls this phenomenon "tech-bro gender-blindness," points to female techies' criticism of Apple's lack of a menstruation tracker in its Health app, VR headsets that are designed for the facial configurations of men and oversized smartphones that are too large for most women to comfortably hold. Coincidence, or design flaw? The author writes, "What does this interesting correlation tell us? Quite a lot, as it happens. The first conclusion is that the industry that is reshaping our societies and undermining our democracies is overwhelmingly dominated by males. Yet – with a few honourable exceptions – male critics seem relatively untroubled by, or phlegmatic about, this particular aspect of the industry." If men are designing most consumer tech products, it makes sense that women would be the ones finding the flaws as important sectors of the market have likely been overlooked. This is why it's crucial for the industry to advocate for and welcome more women. (See WiCipedia: Should tech jobs require college degrees?)

    • The Pacific Northwest (where this editor happens to live), is a bastion of free speech, and it also happens to be home to some of the world's most prominent tech companies (such as Amazon). Two local women-in-tech groups, one in Portland and one in Seattle, are stepping up to make sure that women's voices are heard as the industry expands in the region. KIRO7, a Seattle news outlet, explains that the Seattle Women Who Code chapter is actively working to empower women in tech through ensuring that girls and women are able to speak out about inequality in school and work. Over in Oregon, a press release from Portland Women in Tech (PDXWIT) says that the group is working to "model inclusivity" by rewording its mission statement. The group is now taking a firmer stance on inclusivity for all minority groups. The new mission statement says, "We are building a better tech industry by creating access, dismantling inequities and fueling belonging." It's clear that networking and educational groups can create great change, and set an example for small and large companies alike for how minorities in tech should be treated. (See WiCipedia: How to create a diverse board.)

      — Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading. Follow us on Twitter @LR_WiC and contact Eryn directly at [email protected].

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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