Saying "no" to the 'status bro'

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Evgeny Shadchnev, co-founder and CEO of Makers, explains why lists like the UK Women in Software list are important for the future of digital  

I am looking forward to a time when compiling a power list for the UK’s top women in coding is unnecessary.

In an ideal world, the workforce designing our digital future would reflect the society it is meant to serve. Gender equality would be a reality and there wouldn’t be an urgent call to action to promote the women making a vital contribution to the economic growth of our country.

We are not there yet.

Attracting, training and keeping women in software professions remains a perennial challenge – and we’ve heard the reasons for this problem many times over. Girls usually drop out of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school and don’t pursue engineering at university level. They also lack the role models to show them how to ‘be what they see’.

Then there’s the issue of the toxic work environment. Many women taking the plunge to enter a male dominated sector like software engineering find it difficult to advance or fit in – despite well-meaning efforts to accommodate the female talent pool that’s been actively recruited and genuinely welcomed through the front doors.

What’s going wrong?

New research published in Gender & Society , blames much of the issue on company culture. It draws its conclusion from several sources, including a case study that examined a Silicon Valley tech company’s initiative to stamp out gender inequality within its organisation. These efforts included unconscious bias training and mentorship programmes.

The research revealed that these programmes tended to blame inequality and lack of resolution on individuals instead of the companies.Why? Because they’re rooted in the belief that if men were taught to limit unconscious bias and women were encouraged to speak more assertively and demonstrate valued skills (through mentorship), then gender inequality could be reduced.

But this thinking fails to address the responsibility of the organisation for its role in creating and perpetuating inequality. When we launched the UK’s first Women in Software initiative, our vision was to get the tech community to put forward female colleagues that made vital contributions in the tech sector.

We also encouraged the individual women to nominate themselves. The response was overwhelming – and revealed what we knew all along – that there’s an exciting and powerful pool of female talent that is making its helping to shape our digital future.

We wanted to highlight their accomplishments and create a network bringing individuals together to support themselves and be inspired to do more, aim higher, and change the ‘status bro’.

We also learned that if companies are seriously committed to making effective change, then they’ve got to closely examine the effect their policies and culture have on fostering inequality – and to address the problems head on.

The good news is that firms are beginning to take ownership of the issue, so this year, alongside our 2020 Women in Software Powerlist, we are also shining a spotlight on the companies that are truly making a difference in addressing female inequality in the tech sector.

Our inaugural Changemakers list is all about showing the world what ‘good’ looks like from the perspective of organisational change. It celebrates teams from HR, Tech and beyond to showcase best practice in creating a more inclusive tech industry.

After all: if individuals need to ‘see it to be it’, then so do companies.

Nominations are open from Feb 5th until March 6th 2020.

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