Looking Forward: Digital Literacy and Women

During Women’s History Month, we highlighted several of our amazing female team members here at Workato. Women’s expanding role in tech is something we’ve been thinking about throughout the life of our company — during last year’s Dreamforce, we raised funds for Girls in Tech, a non-profit that educates and empowers women interested in the tech industry. It’s been an exciting two years since Workato started, and we’ve been consciously growing in a direction that is both welcoming and generous to anyone with a passion for what we do. We know we’re not perfect yet; despite having grown from a single female employee — who joined our team in 2014 — to employing twenty-six women today, there’s still a long road ahead of us. Creating space for women in STEM fields is important, and the tech industry can pioneer these female-friendly environments. By equipping the girls of today with digital literacy, we can secure a future for women in the workforce of tomorrow.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution: An Automated Future

We are knee-deep in the “fourth industrial revolution,” a term coined by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to describe technology’s impact on our everyday reality. Our increasingly automated future promises to affect everyone differently. In this new reality, the future of men is secure. But women (especially women of color) have drawn — or more accurately, been handed — the shorter straw. Social messaging discourages women from pursuing careers in tech; for example, pop culture cements the “male computer geek” archetype. As a result, girls are trained to reject these “male” roles, and they frequently believe that they will not be a good fit for the industry.

Women aren’t expected to enjoy or create technology the same way men do, and it affects the number of women who choose careers in tech. “As digital interfaces have become smaller, cheaper, and more adaptable, there’s been a huge increase in the number of products with digital components. Currently, I work alongside several male engineers and only one female to create digital products,” said Sarah Kempa, a Product Designer at Yodle. “We need to do more to help and encourage girls to become digitally literate at an earlier age, so they can contribute to the changing market without playing catch-up.”

Digital Literacy: The Modern Survival Skill

A 2017 survey by Silicon Valley Bank paints a dismal picture for women in tech. 70% of the startups surveyed have no women on their boards of directors, and 54% do not have any women in executive positions at all. And these numbers have not improved over time. A deep-rooted stigma continues to pervade the workforce — a stigma that insidiously boxes women into stereotypes, prevents them from being promoted at the same rate as men, and encourages employers to pay them less for the same work. If tech companies want to attract more Sheryl Sandbergs and Susan Wojcickis, they’ll need to change how they are currently structured.

“When I first started at Workato, I was the only girl. It was definitely a different environment than it is today, especially being a woman working on the product side of things,” said Hui Lin Yang, a Product Manager at Workato. “Having studied Computer Science in school, I’m privileged in the sense that I knew from the start where I wanted my career to lead. But not everyone will have the same resources as I had. Being digitally literate is the pathway for individuals to engage in global conversations. We’re trying to connect the world, and we can’t leave half of that world behind.”

Unifying a Sisterhood Through Tech

Fortunately, women are increasingly bucking outdated gender norms. “I’ve been interested in computers since my father brought home our first IBM PC clone in the mid-80s. It was fun to explore better ways to improve things using technology,” says Sharon Klardie, Workato’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. “I knew that technology was going to be key to my career.”

Challenging gender norms isn’t just personally liberating; studies show a positive correlation between having women in tech leadership roles and the profitability of a business. An increase in the share of women from zero to 30% translates to a 15% rise in a company’s profitability. Simply put, companies work better when there’s more diversity. “There’s so much value in having another point of view at the table,” agrees Klardie. “Different identities and experiences can connect the dots and recognize patterns others may not have noticed or thought of.”

Over the past fifty years, women have made undeniable progress. They have greater access to education, family planning, and healthcare. But to ensure that women can participate equally in the future workforce, everyone must significantly alter their attitude; men and women must embrace digital literacy for all. “I hope that we don’t just get a seat at the table, but that we forge our own paths,” says Michelle Tan, UX Designer at Workato.

To read more about women and the future of work, click here.

Leave a Reply