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The technology world's sexism needs to end

Jonny Evans | May 2, 2014
The pace of change is too slow for most people now alive to see parity in their lifetimes.

Addressing the problem is complicated. GoDaddy is working with the Anita Borg Institute to encourage better female representation in technology. Not only this, but approximately one third of GoDaddy's leadership team are women. Don't let the irony hit you over the head, though; this is the same GoDaddy whose use of scantily clad "chicks" in its advertising has routinely caused consternation.

Legislation could help; look at what Title IX did for women in sports. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a law that would prohibit companies with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender. It has languished in the U.S. Congress for years.

Part of the problem seems to be that even people who consider fighting prejudice on the basis of race, gender or sexuality to be worthy of support tend to agree when they hear ENDA opponents say there is no real discrimination to fight anymore. They tell themselves, "It's 2014; surely there isn't a problem still?"

It is 2014. And there is a problem still. Particularly in tech.

It will also help if powerful people wake up to the problem. Apple's Tim Cook recently put his name to the push against prejudice. "The House should mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by passing ENDA," he wrote on Twitter, "We shall overcome" he added.

Of course, Cook leads a company with only one woman on its board, and Apple had none among its highest-level executives until it brought aboard new retail chief Angela Ahrendts in April. Is Cook waiting for ENDA to push Apple to do more?

Meanwhile, many ambitious women, in a quest for self-fulfillment, have turned to free enterprise. What are these talented female minds doing? They're saving the economy, while the men-folk play with Google Glass. The number of women starting small businesses in the U.S. is growing at twice the rate at which small businesses as a general category are growing here (according to Deloitte). This is important because small businesses are creating jobs faster than any other sector in the country. That means a lot of guys are going to be trying to get jobs from women who couldn't claim a seat at tech's table.

How do you think that might go?

It could be uncomfortable for some people for a while, but I have to wonder whether women turning to entrepreneurship isn't our best shot at finally eliminating tech's sexism problem.

Harvard small-business professor Nancy Koehn puts it this way: "What we need to start thinking about is how we capitalize on the vast network of women entrepreneurs. How do we nurture them? How do we fund them?"

How do we empower women (or any other disadvantaged group) to gain an equality denied them simply because of their sex?

 

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