The argument for a Philly Tech Diversity Pledge

Q: Can we please stop arguing over whether there’s a diversity problem in tech, and actually start doing something about it?

— Elaina M., Kensington


Susan Fowler’s blog post about her time working for Uber has become the stuff of legend. If you’re a man in tech, or a woman in tech who’s been fortunate enough to work for progressive organizations, this may have been shocking to read. But, for everyone else, it wasn’t news at all.

As detailed in The Atlantic’s  “Why is Silicon Valley so awful to women?”, most women in tech have gotten used to:

the sensation of walking up to a group of male colleagues and noticing that they fell quiet, as though they’d been talking about something they didn’t want her to hear. [Or, being asked] to take notes in meetings. [Or, finding] herself standing in elevators at tech conferences late at night when a guy would decide to get handsy.

This issue has been part of the public discourse for at least six years (the first piece on gender inequality in tech I remember reading about was published by Slate in 2012.) But, if there was, of late, any lingering doubt about how widespread and normative this behavior has become, the “Elephant in the Valley” survey laid it to rest. This research, conducted by seven female tech leaders, revealed the following startling truths about women in the tech industry:

  • 88 percent have had clients/colleagues address a question to a male peer that should’ve been addressed to them
  • 84 percent have been criticized for being “too aggressive”
  • 75 percent have been asked about marital status, children, or family life during interviews
  • 60 percent have suffered unwanted sexual advances

And, just six months ago, in September 2017, Philly published a piece by Briana Morgan — titled, “Yes, Philly’s tech scene does have a sexual harassment problem” — which shined a light on the problem at home.

So, to Elaina’s point above: This isn’t a question of if there’s a gender inequality problem in tech. It’s a question of what should be done about it.

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