Gender discrimination in the IT Industry

Since Harvey Weinstein had been accused of sexual harassment, women across the globe opened up about various forms of abuse and discrimination on the part of their male counterparts at workplaces. It turned out, that the discrimination or harassment against women was not only limited to Hollywood, but it was pervasive in every other work […]

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Since Harvey Weinstein had been accused of sexual harassment, women across the globe opened up about various forms of abuse and discrimination on the part of their male counterparts at workplaces. It turned out, that the discrimination or harassment against women was not only limited to Hollywood, but it was pervasive in every other work sector from academia, corporate offices to the IT industry.

Tech industry is very much prone to sexual harassment owning to the fact that only 16 percent of it constitute women Executive, which makes the quarter of the whole industry compromising women, and the rest being men. Whether it’s discrimination in the form of sexual violence, less pays, or another form of subtler discrimination. Every form of discrimination is at play.

Though the workplace harassment issue was brought into notice in 1991, in its full impact, in the case of Anita Hill Vs Thomas Clarence. Which was eventually decided in favor of Thomas. Yet, the gender discrimination issue up until now in the IT industry mainly went unnoticed. Cases after cases were filed by women against such discrimination, but all in vain. The case would rather go in the favor of male counterparts on the pretext of ‘not enough evidence’, or the female complainants were either fired or forced to take the case back.

One such example is that of Whitney Wolf, co-founder of Tinder, who had filed complaints against her male co-founders. But got fired instead by the CEO of the company. The other example being Susan Fowler, an engineer who worked for Uber when she disclosed her harassment at the hands of a senior manager. She was rather threatened, that she would get fired for accusing a man, who was ‘highly skilled’.

From Tesla to Silicon Valley and Wall Street, women workers have experienced harassment. One such research was conducted by some tech women in the Silicone Valley, titled ‘The Elephant in the Valleys. They interviewed more than two hundred senior women workers there, and the results were huge. More than 80 percent of women told that they were frequently been referred to as ‘too aggressive’. 60 percent of women confessed to having faced unwanted advances by their male counterparts. And a large number of women confessed that they have been afraid to make a complaint of any sort against this pervasive discrimination.

This year, according to Melinda Gates in one of her statements, is because of the influence of men in the field, where their investments are huge. There exists an asymmetry of power. Which is responsible for a huge level of discrimination against women in the tech industry. Now, whether it was Wall Street,  Tesla, or Silicon Valley, they were mainly initiated mostly by men in the beginning. Where the only focus was on ‘inventing’ and ‘profit’, and no focus on human resource management, where rules are fixed for the safety of women. The rules have always been residing under some piles of dust. The women complainants have mostly laughed away, or they are threatened, and most cases fired.

The founder and CEO of Arianna Huffington have to say about such a situation, “The only people who didn’t know what was happening in Silicon Valley were the ones trying very hard not to see what was right in front of them. I don’t think there’s a woman who has worked in tech who hasn’t experienced some form of bias or sexual harassment somewhere along the way—myself included.”

There exists an irony when the tech world talks about inventions and of ‘making the world a better place’. Talks about advancements to create a better civilization, but when it comes to gender. The same old attitude remains regarding women, which resembles the Mad Men era. Such an environment leaves even the strongest of the women powerless. Where it’s easier to such her up just by making her gender a base.

The major discrimination comes in the form of fewer wages. Where in the nineties, women were paid nine times less than their male counterparts, today for every one dollar a man receives, a woman receives 77 cents of it, for the same job on the same rank. Many Global Institutions have indicated the wage discrimination, whether it is UN Women or World Economic Forum. Yet, the wage difference remains a forceful factor of the power difference. It is because the men are paid more, that they can create influences on the company. Once the influence is made, power comes along. And in the judgments on such discriminating cases, they win.

About sexual harassment, well after the Me Too Movement, dozens of big names have to into the light in the cases of harassment including the film director James Toback; the head of Amazon Studios, Roy Price; and the political analyst Mark Halperin, with new names being added every few days. It’s a recent phenomenon that women have been started taken seriously when they open up about the harassment they face. Previously, women confessed that they didn’t know how to report such discrimination. They were uncertain about their complaints being heard. They were fearful as well. The ‘red zones’ in the workplaces were marked by women for their own safety. They applied every technique to remain safe. As they had no hope for help from any external source.

The other forms of subtler discrimination involve delayed promotions, avoid being given important projects, sexist jokes, or other forms of brutal mockery. Although all of the rights have been protected now under civil law at workplaces, the discrimination remains. More and more women are opening up about such issues. But still, the number that has finally spoken is just the tip of the iceberg.

IT companies come with some agreements, which ensures the safety of the company’s secrets. Such agreements usually become too extensive and include prohibition about disclosing the salaries offered by the company and other like matters. This way, it becomes even harder to raise objections against many forms of discrimination. These agreements make it impossible to create unions or women to talk about biased attitudes towards them.

Black women are usually under a double weight of discrimination directed against them on the basis of their gender and their race. Seventeen percent of women constitute the tech industry, only one percent of them being black women. A woman of color commented about the whole dilemma as,  Throughout my career at Google, there was the standard thing: ‘I know you want to work on this thing, but we’re going to let a white dude work on it. Sorry, we’re going to let a white dude go ahead of you. That was really frustrating.”

As the world is marching towards a more gender-neutral environment, one can only hope to see a better and unbiased working condition for women in the tech world, as well as in all of the other working sector. In the words of Justice Louis Brandei,  “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” The sunlight, in this case, are the movements against such discrimination, prevailing in the IT Industry. Which will, hopefully, soon lead to a more just environment.

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