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Why WoC in Tech?
As a person of colour, I have witnessed discrimination first-hand. Every time someone would shake the hands of my colleagues but not myself, every 'accidental' snub and every inappropriate comment has become an embedded part of the BME professional experience. Women that I have worked with have too informed me of the discrimination that they have faced. Generally, this shared experience almost enforces a unity between our struggling demographics; a mutual understanding of the difficulties of the corporate world. As much as I am sensitive to the problems that I face, we must recognise the gargantuan obstacles that stand in the way of women of colour (WoC) in the modern day. This is why today, on International Women's Day, I feel it is important to recognise the struggle of WoC in tech.
Veterans of the industry are often quick to dismiss discrimination as it feels too dangerous to confront, while others refuse to accept that this level of discrimination exists. Skepticism around this subject seems strange when confronted with the statistics that accurately portray the struggle of WoC in tech. Given that the US population is comprised of 18% women of colour, some of you might find it shocking to hear that only 4% of C-Suite Executives are WoC. Furthermore, WoC are the demographic that are most likely to experience discrimination in the workplace. One of the most concerning aspects of this fact is that this discrimination manifests differently across varying racial groups.
Different Forms of Discrimination
On the whole, Asian women are more likely to experience career regression as a result of the "model minority myth." This myth is used to enforce the view that "If X minority is succeeding, why isn't Y?" This manifests itself a lot in the tech industry. Despite the view that Asian people are often considered successful in tech, 66% of Asian women are below executive parity. This hostile environment has also led to the steady decline of black women in tech.
Harder, Stronger, Better
While no person should have to go through this level of discrimination, WoC in tech have become some of the most tenacious members of this industry. Having to take risks to merely break into a tech job fosters a daring, groundbreaking mentality. In fact, studies have shown that 57% of WoC are more willing to take risks than other demographics. Events are even being started to continually empower WoC in tech, including LinkedIn's TransformHER conference. This conference was founded by Tyrona Heath, Global Lead, Marketing Development of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.
What can we do?
When WoC in tech tell us about the discrimination they face, we have two options. Option one is choosing to ignore them; we can continue the culture of fostering career progression for the 'old boys' of the tech industry. Option two is to listen - recognise the brilliant minds of the WoC in your company. I hope that you will make the right call.