Within a mere ten days, I have bounced between speaking in front an audience comprised of just five percent women to another skewed at 99 percent. The former audience included over 800 Chief Information Officers (CIOs) for The New Zealand CIO Summit 2017, the latter around 60 young girls during ShadowTech Day.
During this time, I also had a very disappointing conversation with a man in the tech sector telling me that efforts to find a skilled female coder was sexist. Then another conversation where two male CIOs of the Year asserted that diversity is critical for a healthy and productive team.
Not only did these events reconfirm to me the huge diversity issue within the tech sector, but that individuals stuck under a rock throwing the law at people trying to correct the diversity issue need a reality check. Yes, legally, they were correct. However, there is a huge societal bias feeding the diversity issue. While the law acts to protect, it doesn’t stop bias already weighted toward the current majority.
Last week, an image went viral on social media showing how a mother shifted NASA branded clothing from the boys to the girls section.
This hit home, because just yesterday, I tried to buy shoes for my four year old daughter, in any colour, other than pink. Just a year ago my daughter loved blue. However now, she is almost forced to love pink, mostly because these colours are the only ones made available. This social bias extends throughout society, from ethnicity to LGBT and beyond. Why do we need to delicately dance around the terms ‘gender’ and ‘race’ when the subversion is blatant every single day? Stuffing the issue into a hole and plugging it with political correctness isn’t helping the problem, it is making it worse. Why can’t we use a little common sense, with a dash of courage?
The New Zealand CIO Summit 2017 was an incredible event, with absolutely amazing thought leaders and topics that looked squarely in the face of future technology and diversity. Locally, ShadowTech Day, saw Hamilton companies showcasing a range of careers to expose more young, bright females into a mostly white, male dominated world.
However, I am looking forward to the day where my audiences are more evenly divided between male, female, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Because in that space, with all those varied life experiences, there will be greater empathy, wisdom, acceptance, collective intelligence and a broader spectrum of human spirit. Actually, that is a world I very much want to see more of!
Yes, according to New Zealand law, it is illegal to hire based on gender, but I must ask whether a movie casting company looking for a female lead would be thrown the law book like I was? I want to see more smart females and skilled Maori and Pasifika in the tech sector because we simply don’t have representation of their unique voice. Their collective experience. Their perspective. And as we start building more artificial beings, won’t this become even more important?