July 29, 2016
This week in our Women in Comms roundup: Marissa Mayer and the $55 million payout; men hog the boardroom limelight; when did tech get trendy?; and more.
Interested in joining Women in Comms on our mission to champion change, empower women and redress the gender imbalance in the comms industry? Visit WiC online and get in touch to learn more about how you can become a member!
Ever-evolving NASA has created a coding program with women at the helm. FedScoop reports, "The Datanauts program was conceived when the Open Innovation Team at NASA noticed that participants in the International Space Apps Challenge were overwhelmingly men." The program is multi-generational and multi-level, and while predominantly female, in its current iteration it does include five men. Cindy Chin, a student who brought her young daughter to a Datanauts event, said, "She [my daughter] was definitely a big influence in me wanting to join this. To let her see beyond just kids' games, to one day she may be programming something for a satellite mission or something on Mars."
Datanauts has perhaps the best tagline of all: "It really IS rocket (data) science." The 2016 program is just underway with 49 coders. (See WiCipedia: Victory in a 'Culture of Victimology'.)
You may have heard that Verizon acquired Yahoo this week for $4.8 billion, a small percentage of what it was worth in 2000. Yahoo made major waves in the past few years, most notably under the reign of CEO Marissa Mayer who made sometimes controversial changes to the company, but not enough to keep it independently afloat.
Mayer, who spent 13 years at Google, has been outspoken on the topic of women in tech throughout her career. After the announcement of the Yahoo/Verizon deal, she told the Financial Times (subscription required), "I've tried to be gender-blind and believe tech is a gender-neutral zone but do think there has been gender-charged reporting. We all see the things that only plague women leaders, like articles that focus on their appearance... It's a shame."
Should Mayer leave the company, which it looks like she will, she'll walk away with a severance payout of roughly $55 million. (See Verizon to Buy Yahoo for $4.8B, Yahoo Signing Off in $4.83B Sale to Verizon and watch the CNBC video below for additional insight from Mayer on the deal and her plans for the future.)
There's an unflattering stereotype that women are "chatty Cathys" -- a rumor that has been proven untrue in years past -- and it turns out men may be sucking up most of the air in business settings after all. Northwestern mathematics grad and developer Cathy Deng has created an extremely simple website to track if men or women are talking more in meetings, though the tool could really be used anywhere. The website, appropriately titled "Are men talking too much?", consists of two buttons -- "A dude" and "Not a dude" -- which are pressed to track speaking time depending on the gender of the speaker. Deng created the tool at Chi Hack Night, an event where "94 percent of talking was done by men." Her goal is to bring awareness and statistical importance to the issue, since, as Deng puts it, "Men are more likely to speak up than women, and they don't realize they're doing it." (See AT&T's Chiosi: Born to Stand Out and Panel: Men Critical to Change Telecom Culture.)
Workplace equality is certainly at the top of our list here at Women in Comms, but what's even more important? Safety. The Guardian and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have reported, "More than half of the allegations of sexual harassment made ... in 2015 have resulted in no charge." This is particularly common in STEM and academic circles. The Elephant in the Valley report found that "60% of women working in tech had experienced sexual harassment," for example. On a collegiate level, UC Hastings College of Law found that "one in three women science professors surveyed reported sexual harassment." Though this is particularly common in school settings, all women are susceptible to invasive advances. With a "projected deficit of 1 million college-educated STEM workers in the coming decade," how can we show women that STEM is a fulfilling career path when basic freedoms are threatened? (See Tales From the Valley: Bias, Sexism & Worse.)
Tech seems to be the go-to career path these days, especially in metropolises such as the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and London. But has it always been this way? An interview in Computer Weekly with Dr. Sue Black, computer scientist and founder of Techmums, details the history of women's involvement in tech over the past 20 years with an emphasis on the relatively new popularity of this career option. "It's trendy to be in tech now, but it wasn't always ... There are many theories as to why this is, one of which is ... people thinking it [tech] is populated by 'geeky' men with few social skills." In a fast-moving, constantly changing industry, women's involvement in the tech world is moving far too slowly. In the UK, for instance, women make up only 16% of IT workers.
Black says, "If we just carry on with the way things are, it's going to take 50 or 100 years to make a difference." And with the cyclical nature of trends, we may all be living unplugged lives by then anyway. (See Women in Tech Coming Into Focus, Recruiter Sees 7% Rise in Female Placements and No Service, No Problem: 5 Places That Want to Be Unconnected.)
— Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, Light Reading
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