I’d still consider myself a tech world newbie. There’s lots to love about it – being part of building something new, the comradery and “we’re all in it together” attitude, starting something from scratch, and constant innovation and education. Perhaps I don’t know enough just yet to point out many things I don’t like, but I have one very obvious observation. The tech world is a man’s world. That’s changing, however, and we have both women AND men to thank for leading the conversation.
"It's no secret that the world of startups and venture is heavily male-dominated, however, time and time again the numbers have shown that diversity pays off in spades,” said Haley Pavone, founder of fashion-tech startup Pashion Footwear, and also a mentee of SoCreate’s founder Justin Couto. “I thoroughly believe that women deserve a seat at the table, and male allies in the startup community can go a long way towards making that happen.”
But it’s easier said than done. You may care about diversity, and you may hire for diversity, but do those employees have the same experience as others on your team? The same opportunities? The same feeling of inclusiveness? A survey by Hired.com showed 65 percent of women feel discriminated against in the workplace. How do men become better allies?
SoCreate UX Designer and Developer Amber Black said it starts with the groups who have historically had a leg up.
“Those of us with this privilege must reach out to those underrepresented folks and pull them up to join us,” Black said. “We cannot expect to build software that is truly for everyone if the product is built by a team lacking diverse viewpoints and experience.”
And that goes for any business, from screenwriting software to technology made by women, for women.
“Entrepreneurs like Justin Couto who not only encourage but mentor women joining the conversation are paving the way for a more balanced environment in the venture world,” Pavone added.
Offering support, creative freedom, and reassuring confidence helps too, said Alli Unger, a former SoCreate team member.
“As a young female professional and recent college grad working in this male-dominated, fast-paced software world, it could have been very easy to get lost in the middle of it all,” Unger said. “Having such a supportive and communicative person as my manager gave me the opportunity to grow, learn, and succeed in both my position and my development as a professional. I will always be thankful for all that I learned and gained from my time working with [Justin].”
Starting a conversation around fostering diversity can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be a heavy topic. There are fun ways to break the ice, like this Tech Privilege Walk or this Tech Diversity Bingo.
I also love the Twitter account @betterallies, which offers everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Karen Catlin, a former tech executive, curates the account. She offered up these five things that male allies can do to sponsor women and underrepresented people:
- Speak their name when they aren’t around
- Recommend them for stretch assignments
- Share their career goals with influencers
- Invite them to high-profile meetings
- Endorse them publicly
I appreciate SoCreate’s efforts to be more inclusive, and I think we’ve made strides. Fifty percent of our leadership team is female, and around 30 percent of our staff is women. In my opinion, it feels like a very inclusive environment, where all ideas are welcome no matter your position or title. It’s something we can always improve upon, of course!
What will you do to be a better ally today?
Courtney Meznarich, Director of Community Outreach