On International Women’s Day, W.I.T. Republic used its platform to celebrate women’s achievements and raise awareness about women’s equality in the world of tech.
Not only were we joined by 4 leading women with a wealth of experience in tech, as well as the diversity & inclusion space… but we also wanted this to be an interactive event where attendees were encouraged to share their own experiences and thoughts.
The theme of the evening; from resistance to resilience.
Panel Discussion: What does resistance to resilience mean to you?
Salma de Graaff
Salma began the event by describing how her journey began as one of resistance; having to cope with the resistance against her, before being given the opportunity to build her resilience. Identifying those blockers and attempting to understand the resistance, in order to figure out if it was something that could be influenced, is something which Salma highlights has helped her throughout her career. Building up resilience refers to building up your workplace confidence, giving yourself room to speak, the breath to be heard, learning where you can add value and how can you ask for help.
From a diversity perspective, Saskia mentions how resistance is shown at three levels: the organisational level, the societal level, and the individual level. During her career Saskia highlights how she was often chosen as the ‘spokesperson’ for the organisation on topics surrounding emotion and people. However, Saskia tried to keep her voice down so as not to deal with the resistance towards her ideas on the topic. During a session of aikido, Saskia’s feeling of resistance turned to resilience as she understood that to keep your perspective, you must work together and bring people along with you.
When talking about the one thing she would change throughout her career, Saskia emphasises the need to be clear with the questions you wish to ask. ‘A powerful question achieves more than the right solution.’ Asking in-depth questions and listening allows us to create better quality, more diverse products.
Talking about her personal journey of resistance to resilience, Cheryl highlights her need to be resilient often as a result of being the only woman in the room. Expanding on her experience in order to have not just the technical knowledge, but also the experience of knowing how to deal with a situation and knowing when to raise your voice and ask questions, is how Cheryl has built her resilience.
Having confidence in your own voice comes from experience, learning from others, working with people, growing a support network and the realisation that you are not alone in your experience. In work and life, we need to support each other. We need to step in when we see bad behaviours and strive towards a better working culture.
For Ivett, her experience of resistance to resilience started when she transitioned to a woman. Having experienced the beginning of her career in the industry as a male, Ivett was initially shocked when she came up against this resistance. Suddenly her abilities where questioned and this resistance caused her to lose her confidence and build up imposter syndrome.
Ivett highlights how transwomen are logical allies for women in tech as they have experienced both sides of the perspective. They have experienced the level of respect that they deserve, and they know how hard they should push to get that respect.
In parallel to Saskia’s experience, Ivett mentions how she was seen as the ‘diversity person’. Making her feel as if she was only hired to fill a diversity quota. Looking at the problem from a different perspective, Ivett advertises specifically to diverse candidates when hiring but has the same standard across the board so that people are only hired for their ability.
Breakout Rooms: Experiences around inequality and forging diversity in tech
Following the panel discussion, we split into breakout rooms for a deeper delve into diversity and equality in tech.
Experiences around inequality in your career
Talking about experiences around gender inequality in tech, issues were raised around sexual harassment and misconduct at work, how damaging it can be and the difficulties of speaking up about this experience in a heavily male dominated industry. It was great to see people feel safe enough to open up about their experiences and share them with the other attendees.
How can we forge more diversity in tech?
The question being: can we increase gender equality in tech without positive discrimination? However, an interesting point that was raised suggested that in order to reach equality you need to treat people inequal because they require more support. This is something that people must be aware of – equality will not happen without awareness – which can happen in different ways, for example using quotas or diversity recruitment.
The need for male allies was also discussed. It was highlighted that in order to make a positive change within the industry, men need to start from a point of understanding and then take action. Which raised the question; how can we get more men to think about this?
Thank you to Salma, Saskia, Cheryl and Ivett for taking the time to speak about your experiences and making the event such a success.
Thank you to everyone who attended for offering your opinions and making the event so insightful.
If you are interested in speaking at, or attending, or next event, don’t hesitate to get in touch!