The survey recently released by Elephant in the Valley grabbed the headlines quickly with its shocking numbers:
- 60% of women in tech reported unwanted sexual behaviours
- 39% of those harassed did nothing because they thought it would negatively impact their career
- 87% received demeaning comments from male colleagues
- 47% were asked to do lower-level tasks that male colleagues were not asked to do
Why is this still happening?
It’s so easy to feel angered by the statistics — it’s a seemingly obvious problem that has been going on for too long. So why is this still happening? Why do women refrain from sharing about their family life in interviews, for fear of cutting their career short? Why is it still more appealing for companies to hire a man over a woman, to avoid potential costly harassment or discrimination lawsuits?
Many articles talk about the importance of speaking up – when Ellen Pao lost the gender discrimination case against her former employer, she maintained that “it’s important to speak up, because it will help others who are going through the same thing”. Sure, more women are empowered to speak up in cases where they may not have felt they had a voice before. And there are hundreds of cases prior to Pao’s that maintained the same desired result, among others.
We, as a culture, assume that the younger generation are more socially evolved than their predecessors – specifically, more gender and ethnically balanced in the workplace. But, the cultural norms are still present – the ‘brogrammer’ culture in Tech is an example of this. Women feel excluded from social and networking opportunities. Women are asked to take notes in meetings or plan the office parties, regardless of their position.
This is a cultural norm, that, unless transformed, will continue… We need to look beyond the numbers.
Let’s face it: this is a cultural norm, that, unless transformed, will continue despite the best efforts of people like Ellen Pao, and studies like Elephant in the Valley. We need to look beyond the numbers.
Do we really think that the majority of men intend their actions to have this effect on women’s careers? The truth is, they don’t. Both men and women truly want to work well together. Most men have the best of intentions – they just have blind spots. They don’t understand the impact of the behaviour that has become ‘normal’ – “This is just how we are around here. We’re just joking around”. They don’t know how to be humorous and have fun in an inclusive way.
We need to transform the culture.
It’s easy to play the blame game. Women don’t want to assume men are blind to the impact that the ‘brogrammer’ culture has on women. Men couldn’t really be that ignorant – and it’s an insult to the male gender to suggest that they are. The truth is, both men and women have blind spots that are preventing us from working well together. These blind spots are not going be transformed through legal battles. The cultural norms are not going to change via achieving gender equality. We need to transform the culture, and the only way I have ever seen this done is by bringing men and women together for a non-blame, powerful learning experience that permanently impacts how we work together to create an authentically inclusive culture.