Girls Who Code CEO Tarika Barrett talks about the gender gap in tech – Quartz

A calculation of the bro culture of technology is long overdue, many believe.

In November, Tesla, led by the world’s richest man Elon Musk – who himself is often of all sorts inappropriate – faced a “nightmarish” sexual harassment trial at his Fremont factory. The company is silent on the allegations, but Musk has been busy making jokes about gadgets that “whistle Tesla. “

Meanwhile, calls for the CEO of game developer Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick, to step down have intensified last month as years of sexual misconduct at the company come to light.

On November 18, the nonprofit educational organization Girls Who Code severed ties with Activision, partner of its two-week summer coding programs for schoolgirls: “News about Activision proves our priorities are fundamentally wrong. aligned. We cannot in good conscience continue to work with a company that is so antithetical to our own values. “

While this is a bold stance, Girls Who Code continues to work with Tesla for the same program. Its long list of partners includes several other big tech companies that have faced allegations of gender discrimination and harassment, including Apple, Rockstar Games, Amazon and WeWork.

Girls Who Code has concluded that Activision has crossed the line, but he also believes disengagement is not an ideal solution. Especially when it comes to multi-billion dollar companies like Tesla, Apple, and Amazon, which collectively employ millions of people. Instead, the non-profit organization believes in the need to have difficult conversations.

Twitter / Tarika Barrett

Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code.

“We try to encourage companies to take a deep look at their own practices and to question what they could do to alienate young people, and especially young women and people of color, or what they are doing. to prevent them from being hired in the first place, ”Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code, told Quartz. “Every business is different, so there is no model for this type of process. But at the very least, we hope that companies will have discussions about the culture of work. “

Below are edited excerpts from Quartz’s interview with Barrett.

Why has tech frat bro culture become such a staple in Silicon Valley?

Barrett: Culture is created by those who are empowered to be the loudest voice in the room. And rooms in Silicon Valley tend to be very homogeneous and representative of a very specific type of male cis white. Whether the reasons are implicit or explicit, these are the type of people hiring managers target for entry-level positions, and these are the people who move up through the ranks in tech companies. We need to change who is in the room.

How does this culture disadvantage women?

Barrett: The punitive work culture in tech, rooted in systemic racism and sexism, often alienates young women and women of color once they get their first jobs in the tech industry. Half of women in tech jobs leave by the age of 35, many because they thought their workplace was inhospitable to women. Maybe these offices didn’t have adequate parental leave policies, or women weren’t represented in the leadership ranks, or there was just a toxic corporate culture.

How can tech companies improve gender diversity?

Barrett: What we’re really asking is that people keep an open mind, redefining what they see as an attractive candidate for employment, and evaluating promotion practices that keep women and women of color out of business. ” occupy managerial positions.

A tangible and achievable change that all companies can make to change this culture is to stop relying on the elitist academic accreditation system upon hiring, which offers a narrow and privileged prospect of success, historically excluding students. marginalized and not providing the necessary diversity. technology companies. The emphasis on four-year university education, typically at Ivy League institutions, hurts our young people and tech companies in general.

As we look to the future, we need to think critically about changing the way we support people in the workforce. Businesses can start to think about it by offering childcare services, paid parental leave, flexible and asynchronous working hours, and increasing women’s wages so they don’t have to choose between careers and children. .

Why should tech companies take gender diversity seriously?

Barrett: At the most basic level, the usability of tech products is severely hampered by a lack of female representation. A famous example is the first iteration of Apple’s health app, which didn’t even include any period or fertility tracking. It is a glaring omission. Imagine if there had been even one woman in the room making these decisions. What would this app have looked like?

When it comes to security, we already know that the internet is less secure for women, people of color and anyone from marginalized communities. Lately, it seems that all the efforts to tackle internet damage, while appreciated, seem insufficient, too late. With more female portrayal, black and brown portrayal, and LGBTQIA portrayal in these big corporations, things like hate speech, cyberstalking and pornographic revenge may have been taken more seriously, much earlier.

Technology as we live it now is the result of the priorities of the privileged few, often sharing a unique perspective. The future of technology depends on a tech workforce representative of the diverse world in which we live.

How important is female representation at the top?

Barrett: At Girls Who Code, we always say you can’t be what you can’t see. Girls learn, in school and through culture, from men like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and Albert Einstein and Neil Armstrong, but not from pioneering women in the field like Katherine Johnson and Ada Lovelace and Jean Bartik.

In their minds, a programmer is a boy in a hoodie alone in the basement or a man running a business in Silicon Valley. By the time the girls were 10, they had already internalized these cultural cues. And these internalized beliefs resonate throughout their lives: in elementary school, high school, college, and in the workforce. Having more education and representation of women and people of color in tech may be the difference we need to enable a pipeline of girls to pursue the tech careers of the future.

We’ve come a long way to help young girls see more women who look like me in the tech industry, but we need to see more women who look like me at the top of these tech industries so young girls know it. there is a way for them.

How can women thrive in technology?

Barrett: We place too much burden to be successful in the workplace on marginalized people, and not enough pressure in the workplace to be more conducive to success. The reason for the gender gap in technology is not the women themselves. If you are a woman or underrepresented person in tech and have been successful in getting into college, getting a tech degree, getting noticed by hiring managers, and getting hired, then I know you already have the skills and tools to be successful on the job.

Instead, we need companies to prioritize pay equity, be aware of how burnout tends to disproportionately impact women and adjust workloads, and create jobs. pathways to success and support systems.

If we give women the opportunities and tools they need to develop their skills, if we give them access to mentors and role models that make them excited about a career in tech, if we let’s ensure that workplaces are welcoming and inclusive, if we agree that an unusually high tolerance for so-called locker room discussions shouldn’t be a job requirement for women in tech… if we do these things, I guarantee you we’ll start to see that gender gap close.

If there was one thing you could say to women who are considering giving up their hard-earned careers in tech due to gender bias, what would it be?

Barrett: In recent years, and this is certainly true right now, the cultural conversation around the tech industry has been overwhelmingly one of evil. We are inundated with stories of big business perpetuating the glaring inequalities that exist in our country, for profit. The tech leaders we read about in the media are usually greedy, self-centered men, wasting precious resources on their own terms instead of giving back to a struggling country.

These stories created a binary: you can either have a career in tech that makes you money or have a career that you love and that helps your community. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I want women to know that they can do good in the world and find joy, not despite their career in tech, but because of it. We want women to know: you can build a career in STEM on your own terms.

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