Women in tech: men helping fight the tech patriarchy
• On current progress, women in tech will not be equal with men for another 169 years.
• It’s important, if we’re going to move that dial, to address men in tech too.
• Getting more women in tech is great for your bottom line, as well as your soul.
In Part 1 of this article, we spoke to Pauls Silins, the only man on the team at Riga Tech Girls, a Latvian training enterprise trying to not only equip women with common digital skills, but also support their entry into the technology workforce, both because it makes pure economic sense in 2023, and because it’s self-evidently the right thing to do.
Women in tech: how men can help
With levels of women in tech at around 28% globally, and a projected equity point some 169 years in the future, it’s beyond clear that the situation of a technological and social patriarchy cannot any longer be allowed to persist. It harms everything – most specifically, the opportunities for women in tech to get into the industry, thrive in it, create within it, and achieve their goals within it.
We asked Pauls about whether men in Latvian tech had joined the fight to get more women working in tech.
We are the champions?
When we’ve highlighted the situation to men in tech in Latvia, it hasn’t really kicked off that much. We started small, running events like hackathons for women on March 8th, International Women’s Day, and we have other, smaller events right now – but we’re planning to grow them quite a bit in the future.
What we do have is a “male champions program,” where we highlight the men that have helped out, so that we can show that, yes, men are helping to do a good thing here, they’re not just speaking and doing nothing, they’re actually helping out with the situation in terms of women in tech in Latvia, and now, with our DigitalABC online training, worldwide.
While our goal continues to be to bring more and more women into the tech world, we also want to try to put men who are doing positive things in the spotlight as well, to show that this is a good thing – to encourage other men who might otherwise feel immediately threatened by the rise of women and resist the change.
We want to send the message to men in tech that this is not something you should cower away from, it’s something you should help out with. So we’re trying to recognize the men who are helping, and trying to encourage other men in tech to support us, and to support the fight for more women in tech.
Another smaller thing which has been discussed a lot is that if you see a speaker at a panel discussion, it’s usually a man. It’s worth pointing that out. We need more women to take those roles, again to show both men and women in tech that there are higher-level women working in the tech industry. That will begin to normalize the situation for men, but also inspire women to achieve those levels of seniority.
You can’t be it if you can’t see it, right?
Exactly. And the situation’s in flux – some event organizers still haven’t worked out the fact that they have a top-heavy speaker roster, with men routinely taking more spots than women. So it has to be pointed out, in order to make those organizers aware of the change that needs to be made.
Women need to see women in tech – and so do men.
Having spoken to some women in tech at various stages of their careers, what they tend to say is that once they’ve done everything they need to do to get into tech in the first place, there’s quite a patriarchal structure to swim against, and being able to see people who’ve done it before them, and where possible, having mentoring to cope with some of the system’s legacy misogyny, is incredibly valuable to them.
Exactly. And that’s why we also want to highlight the men with good policies and good attitudes, because once a thing is seen to be okay, once it’s seen to be normalized, it shows other men that this is something that should be done.
But it also shows the women who want to enter the tech field that there are men representing this company or that company that have these pro-women in tech attitudes and policies and structures, so there are places they can look forward to working in, compared to the alternative of it just being a blanket “traditional” male workspace.
And the hope is that when other companies see that talent is going through this process, and getting results from their inclusive policies, they’ll see it makes sense for them to follow the trend and change their ways, too.
Also, it gives you a better bottom line. Survey after survey, report after report comes back saying diverse teams are better, economically speaking, for your company. So even if you’re at that level of ambivalence where it’s all about the money, this works for you – gender inclusivity is a win-win situation.
Women in tech: avoiding “White Knight Syndrome.”
This question comes with a rider, in that none of the women in tech we’ve spoken to has raised it, and quite a few have rejected it outright, but is there a potential danger in men taking leadership roles in women in tech movements, and being seen as taking them over, swooping in and delivering what they think are solutions, without getting women’s feedback on what those solutions should look like?
In the struggle to get more women in tech, mostly the response to us, and to me as a man trying to help however I can, has been positive. There have been situations in non-work environments where I’ve met women who have views on what I’m doing, and who have given me their feedback on it. There will be people who feel that way, sure. And in the same way, there will be men who will look at me being part of an organization like Riga Tech Girls and think “Why the hell is he doing that? Why would he do that? This is so lame, this is stupid,” and so on.
People are people, and everybody has their own opinions. But mostly I would say I haven’t faced that. I’m here to support. I’m here to help.
Our Discover Tech event is a case in point. We have a lot of participants at that event, and we changed the moderators and the people who are speaking there, because at the time it was meant just for women, so I felt I shouldn’t be up front. We changed it so that our speakers and hosts were women talking to women, so that, as you say, it didn’t come across as a man presenting answers to the lack of women in tech.
My take on the question is that I’m here to support. I’m not here to show women the ropes – women will find the ropes perfectly fine on their own, and things like this need to absolutely not be performative, not to be men patronizingly presenting their new knowledge to women who already know what’s what when it comes to the situation in tech.
But it is, and it should be, everybody’s fight, because ultimately, everyone will reap the benefits of a more diverse and equal tech sector.
A presentation from Riga Comm 2022.
In Part 3 of this article, we’ll take on the potential for misogynistic backlash in tech, and how to genuinely move the dial forward towards a sexual equity through significant growth in the numbers of women in tech.
6 December 2023
5 December 2023
4 December 2023