#breakthebias: a view from our Somo-ers.

By
Megan Stott, Marketing Manager in London, UK
Date:
10 March 2022
Photograph:

Every year on the 8th of March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. We share stories of powerful females overcoming adversity, we celebrate the women who inspired us and raised us, and we use the day to drive awareness of gender-based issues. 

This year’s theme was #breakthebias. For us, as an agency in the tech industry, the gender imbalance is always a topic we’re aware of and one that we’re striving to help overcome. In 2020, we established our EDI (equality, diversity, and inclusion) council, whose mission is to promote education amongst our teams, get more women into tech roles and encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to work in tech. 

We wanted to get some thoughts on the issues around gender bias, how we can encourage women to choose a career in tech, and other IWD topics from our Somo people. Here’s what they said.

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Ben Magnus, VP Product:

More women in tech creates greater diversity in the ideas, thoughts, and approaches that we produce. It leads to more creativity and innovation, and ultimately, helps us build better products. The main piece of advice I would give is don’t be afraid to speak up. Teams can only achieve thought diversity if alternative viewpoints and opinions are heard.

Aline Limao, Senior Brand Manager at CI&T:

We need more women in technology for many different reasons, but I'll highlight one: I believe technology aims to make an impact to people’s lives, and if we're looking for that, the more diverse teams and the more women we have on teams thinking about solutions, the more development will actually be connected with the real need of society. My advice would be to connect to the purpose of the technology and not just the development itself. Women have a lot of technical ability, just like men, but we also need to focus on the connection and purpose. 

Vivian Cardenas, Studio Coordinator:

We need more women in tech, it is still a highly masculinised industry where features such as tenderness, empathy and a broader view of work environment and workforce are still needed. Women in leadership roles will hire more women and will promote diverse hiring practices and equity in payment. 

Viviana Ortiz, Scrum Master:

When young girls see women in tech careers, they are able to envision themselves in such roles and are more motivated to study tech at school or university. Having more women in tech careers means that there will be an increase in role models for the younger generations, helping boost female numbers in engineering, design, leadership, and more. This will ensure that any woman, regardless of her ethnicity, religion or color will no longer have doubts about whether she is suited for a tech career path.

Andrew Kettenis, Senior UX Designer:

I feel like you can never have too broad or diverse a range of life experiences, and this means women but also people of all backgrounds, especially those underrepresented in tech. My main advice would be to ask, so what? If we have an even split of men to women, or people from different cultural and economic backgrounds, what happens then? Is their experience infusing our approach, ideas and culture? Or are we just doing things in the exact same way but with a more diverse team?

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Vivian Cardenas, Studio Coordinator:

I think hiring practices should change in the first place. Empowerment, knowledge, and transparency are key.

Erica Jones, Product Owner:

Education and discussion. Helping women recognise what is considered bias, and how to handle it when we do.

Paula Arango, Product Manager:

It’s important to encourage young girls to see tech and science as exciting prospects for future jobs and careers. We need to stop seeing these professions as designed for male or female roles; instead of worrying about gender, we should pay attention only to the potential and capabilities of each individual.

Stephanie Warren, Content Strategist:

The best way to break the bias in tech is to hire more women. We need more seats at the table. We should be pushing to get more women on our teams and we should also push to let all voices be heard. I have never been on a product team where I felt we exhausted all ideas. We should dedicate more time to ideate, and more diverse voices would absolutely make the final products better. As a mom of two teenage daughters, I am encouraged by what I see and the advancements women have made. Right now, my kids have no idea what they want to do. But I’m hopeful that maybe one day they will try tech, I think they might have a knack for it. 

Priya Martin, Scrum Master:

Educate all employees on unconscious bias and maybe even the history of male privilege, especially managers. Encourage employees to be empathetic to the bias and unfairness that women face. Ensure women's visibility in all-company meetings (representation matters!). Actively ensure equal participation in meetings, ask women to finish after being interrupted, introduce mentorships for new joiners with other women who have been in the role for a while.

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Ben Magnus, VP Product:

Yes, no doubt. Often this comes in the form of unconscious bias which further reinforces the need for greater education on the subject.

Jeimmy Camacho, QA Engineer:

Yes, I think all of us have experimented the bias in the tech industry. One way we could stop it is to communicate our feelings more and teach others why it is a form of discrimination. I feel that the best way to show the world why women are so valuable for the tech industry is to continue giving our best in our roles, and creating that great work we know we can produce. 

Andrew Kettenis, Senior UX Designer: 

I think we can see elements of bias every day. From how offices are set up (think room temperature and reaching things) to our very linear approach to work, output, and energy. Sometimes bias is way more overt but as we start to ween that out, we could probably be better at noticing the more subtle nuanced bias that is all around us.

Priya Martin, Scrum Master:

Yes, for example, companies consistently hiring male candidates in technical positions or posing more technical questions to male candidates in interviews in comparison to female candidates.

Paula Arango, Product Manager:

Fortunately not in my case, but I’m conscious about it and I’ve seen how some people (including women) have a certain degree of distrust when a woman is the one who is leading. Sadly, sometimes this is the result of implicit biases that have become ingrained in company culture or work practices which lead to gender discrimination.

There’s much more work to do and so much more the tech sector and companies in the industry could be doing for women. Just 25% of jobs in technology are held by women in 2021 and only 74% of girls express a desire for a career in STEM fields. It’ll take more education to encourage women to enter tech, and to see more representation and diversity of not only gender, but also race, colour and ethnicity to make tech truly diverse. 

Days like International Women’s Day help with advocacy and awareness, and give women, and men, an opportunity to stop and think about what gender diversity is like right now and what they could do to change it. But is 2022 the year things will change in women’s favour in the workplace? Deloitte Global thinks so. In their recent article, they’ve predicted that ‘large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022’ - that’s up 2% since 2019, and while it might not seem like a lot, it’s a step in the right direction.