LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS AMERICAS 2017: Education on concepts like unconscious bias and strong mentor and support relationships are key to helping reduce the gender gap in technology, a panel of woman executives said Thursday.
According to Sprint Business Development Manager Christina Claure and BenToppin Founder and CEO Mercedes Bent, acknowledging the presence of unconscious bias in the tech workplace is a critical first step to achieving gender parity.
“I can’t emphasise (enough) how much unconscious bias is something we all need to train ourselves on and be advocates of bringing that type of training to the workplace,” Bent said. “There’s no excuse to not know what it means and what it is and that it’s real. I think if people start to be conscious about their unconscious biases, that’s one of the best ways we can possibly move forward.”
Ann Ward, COO of Upload, added women also need to change their own mindsets. Some ambitious women, she said, unnecessarily suffer from “imposter syndrome.”
“I see a lot of female founders have great ideas, they have great passion, and then I see them explain why they can’t do it to themselves because they’re afraid to put it out there,” Ward said. “I don’t think we’re even getting there where women are actually asking for (venture capital) money, enough of them.”
Lili Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer at the Kapor Center, said strong mentor relationships and multi-year engagement models are also important in keeping young girls and women on track for tech careers. Gangas said everyone in the tech community needs to step up to encourage up and coming female talent. Having a robust support system of mentors and backers in place will help young women overcome the hurdles in their way, she said.
Earlier in the week, Verizon Chief Network Officer Nicola Palmer warned the tech industry has a lot to lose if it doesn’t get women more involved in the future.
“It’s a big problem,” Palmer said. “If we don’t get serious about this, I think our industry is not going to be able to compete as effectively as we could and bring the benefits of next generation technology like 5G into the hands of consumers.”
According to Palmer, it’s not just high-level executives that can help – anyone can take part by “encouraging a young girl to notice the wonder of science in her everyday world” and pursue her interests in math and science.