A growing need to be diverse is now becoming a fashion in technology company hiring policies. Diversity figures are published to ensure public relationship status. But are these numbers really a reflection of women participation or is the need to be diverse overclouding the need for quality?
When Satya Nadella said women should believe in good karma, he did mean well. Karma is a concept in Hinduism that pertains to a person's work or deeds, their intent and in the concept of causality. Which in essence means that every person sows what they reap. If a woman at work is doing a good job, no company or system of human resources can keep her down or should keep her down. And it effectively applies to men as well as women. What is wrong with creating an appraisal system that works well for its employees irrespective of their gender?
For years, we have been battling to get women into STEM and into competitive careers and vocations. We have hosted hackathons, built businesses around women empowerment, attended and cheered at conferences celebrating women, written books and created thesis. The only thing we have bothered about is the numbers. This is counterproductive. And dangerous. We can never win when we are only a statistic. Women need to compete on the basis of talent and competitiveness rather than just statistics in the diversity chain.
The argument in favor of statistics is that a huge bias against women exists and this bias will make it impossible for women to compete in the same environment that works counterproductive to their interests. However, there are instances of women who have had stellar careers in the same environment successfully and still do. Is this not a testament of the fact that credible work will find its reward?
In discussions with startups in silicon valley, to encourage more women to be hired; the most often repeated comment ( in despair) is either the fact that there weren't as many women applicants as men in the recruitment process or that to ensure productivity, the most appropriate candidates are recruited with little thought to their gender. While burn rate and productivity being a huge factors in determination of employee choice; the startup environment in the valley and elsewhere will continue to be biased towards the most credible employees irrespective of gender.
The question then to ask is how 2 day codethons and hackathons can impact the ability of women to create careers or ventures out of those skills. Today, women account for less than 1 out of every 5 technical employees in major technology companies in Silicon valley. Even as the percentage of women in college is increasing, only a few of them are pursuing technical education. From 1992-2012; the percentage of women who studied a Bachelors level computing program dropped from 30% to 18%.
There is a huge need to create institutions that work on creating quality. There is a dire need to reform our educational system to one that incorporates computer science subjects into other degree programs like health sciences that women tend to seek more. Our education system and skill institutions need to change the way we create educational programs to include more skills based on employability in conjunction with the recruitment needs of technology companies in their ecosystem. The funnel needs to improve. Unless we create employable women, we will still be publishing statistics that make no impact on the lives of women and on the gender divide.