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Women In Comms

WiCipedia: Is Singapore the land of opportunity for women in tech?

This week in our WiCipedia roundup: Sometimes jobs in the White House can actually lead to good; is Singapore Silicon Valley 2.0?; validation and recognition for LGBTQ tech workers; and more.

  • In Singapore, opportunities are looking plentiful for women in tech, an article on Today Online says. Despite its small size, the island city-state is extremely wealthy and forward thinking. Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam recently spoke about diversity in tech in Singapore, and explained that the government is actively working with schools and companies to ensure equal opportunities and mentorship programs for an inclusive industry. While the number of women studying STEM already matches the number of men there, those numbers haven't yet progressed into careers – but they're working on it. "I think Singapore can be a model. We're not there yet and, in fact, there are no real models for women in tech internationally, including in Silicon Valley. We must be a model of inclusivity, even on gender, when it comes to the tech world, because the tech world hasn't been famous for gender equality," Shanmugaratnam said. Hopefully Singapore can be a gender parity light at the end of the tunnel for everyone else around the world. (See WiCipedia: Breaking through barriers and smashing inequality.)

    Land of lights and opportunity?
    (Source: Pixabay)
    (Source: Pixabay)

  • Even when it feels like equality and progression in tech are moving at a snail's pace, it's hard to ignore the progress that has been made. In 1968, for instance, computer engineer Lynn Conway was fired by IBM because she was transitioning her gender. At the time, there were no workplace protections in place for LBGTQ workers (here are the current protections). Fifty-two years later, IBM made public amends to Conway and awarded her with a lifetime achievement award for her innovative tech work, The New York Times reports. While it's tempting to say it's too little too late, the recognition was truly a "validation" of the LGBTQ community's contributions to tech, and wasn't intended to erase the damage of the past. The article stated, "Diane Gherson, IBM's senior vice president of human resources, told Ms. Conway that while the company now offered help and support to 'transitioning employees,' no amount of progress could make up for the treatment she had received decades ago." (See WiCipedia: How to be a better ally.)

  • Uber's pandemic-related layoffs in early 2020 may have had the unintended consequence of lowering the overall numbers of Black employees, Erie News Now explains. The ride-sharing/hailing company laid off a full quarter of its employees when it seemed like no one would be sharing a car with a stranger ever again, and customer support – which was made up of a larger proportion of Black workers than other divisions – took a hit. This led to a nearly 2% decline in Black employees, bringing the total down to 7.5% of total workers. However, women rose a bit higher, especially in leadership roles, and even Black and Latinx leaders got a slight boost (though none of these employees were in tech leadership roles). While transparency in office roles at the company is helpful, there is still clearly work to do. (See WiCipedia: Lyft Assesses Diversity Growth & Melinda Gates Tackles Gender Imbalance.)

  • Can there ever be enough VC funds for minorities? We think not. Although it feels like there has been a small flood lately, Mike Smith, president, COO and interim CFO at Stitch Fix, is leaving the profitable company to get his VC on, says Vox. The new fund will be geared towards Black, Latinx and female founders, though it won't ignore non-minority founders either. In this year of extreme racial reckoning, Smith looked around and felt it was time: "I've been fortunate that I've done well being out in this ecosystem, and I want [there to be] more people like me," he told Vox. "When I look around and I'm the only [Black founder] or one of the few, it just shouldn't be the case." Smith will leave Stitch Fix, join its Board of Directors and open up a VC shop with an unnamed partner in the coming months. (See WiCipedia: Black female founders take on VC discrimination.)

  • And finally, some inspiring news: Ruthe Farmer, former Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion in the Obama White House, wanted to create opportunities for women in tech after leaving politics, Forbes explains. After realizing the disparities between men and women in the industry while working with the Obama administration, Farmer launched and aided several initiatives advocating for inclusion for girls and women, was named a White House Champion of Change for Technology Inclusion and received the Anita Borg Institute Award for Social Impact. Perhaps her largest accomplishment in this realm is launching Computer Science Education Week, a nationwide program that aims to get elementary school students interested in STEM. Farmer doesn't think that advocating for women in tech stops at the individual, but rather, "If I invest in you succeeding, you're going to pay it forward to other people. When you invest in women, you benefit the families and the community." We need more advocates like her in tech. (See WiCipedia: From military life to startup founder.)

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

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