Report: Women in tech advancing, though still facing familiar problems

As regular readers of our Houston Employment Law Blog know, sexual misconduct continues to plague American workplaces, making it especially difficult for women in some companies to feel comfortable and to advance their careers.

A recent survey of women in the technology industry conducted by IT firm Ensono illuminates some of the inroads women are making in tech and some of the challenges they continue to face.

It’s widely understood that high-tech is dominated at every level by men. However, women are making slow progress, Ensono says.

Conferences: doubled-edged opportunities

Tech conferences and industry events present opportunities for professional advancement for women – and offer similar opportunities for executives to find and poach talent from competitors. It’s often critical for conference attendees to speak address the gatherings and interact with peers in order to keep their careers on upward trajectories.

One measure of the progress women are making in tech can be found in the European conference series The Next Web (TNW). In 2018, just nine women of color – a mere 5 percent – were TNW keynote speakers. Last year, the figure rose to 14 percent (or 49 speakers).

While that shows some progress, the following figures show that much remains to be done: of the women who delivered keynote speeches at technology conferences in the past year, a whopping 39 percent reported that they were sexually harassed at the conferences, according to Ensono’s survey of 500 U.S. and U.K. women who attended conferences over those 12 months.

Double-digit discrimination

Nearly 6 in 10 women of color said they were subjected to gender discrimination at a tech conference. The figure for white women was lower – 43 percent – though still substantial.

Put those figures together, and approximately two-thirds of female keynote speakers reported experiencing gender discrimination firsthand at tech conferences.

Note: just 28 percent of keynote speakers at technology conferences over the last three years were women. Women of color made up just 8 percent of the speakers.

Does remote work help?

Some who look at the numbers might wonder if one of the few upsides to the pandemic is that many conferences are being held remotely now, possibly reducing opportunities for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Lin Classon, Ensono’s VP of public cloud products, says that might not be so. “Considering many people feel more comfortable being aggressive online than in-person, virtual meetings and networking events put female attendees in a vulnerable position.”

Possible answers and solutions

She said employers – pre-pandemic, during the pandemic and post-pandemic will “need to ensure they equip their associates with the tools and resources to properly address any negative experiences.”

For some women who experience sexual harassment or gender discrimination, answers and solutions won’t come from employers, of course. For them, the most advantageous course of action will be to find an attorney experienced in protecting workplace rights and careers in employment law litigation.

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