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What will we leave behind for the underrepresented in tech?

By Prakriti Mateti

Last updated September 21, 2021

Women are able to vote, drive, own property, pursue almost any career they want, raise a child alone. This is possible because courageous women (and others) before us fought for us to have these rights. What will we achieve for the women coming 10 years or 20 years after us?

I read two articles about a games development company this week. Brave ex and current employees have come forward with personal stories of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, discrimination, trivializing serious matters like rape and many other terrible experiences that no one should have to face at their place of work. We seem to have hit a new low in tech (but I say that every time another company’s terrible culture and practices are exposed).

Plenty of research and analysis like a diversity study by Atlassian and a diversity and inclusion post-mortem by Erica Joy shows that the gains the tech industry have achieved are minor compared to the money, time, and effort that has been poured into improving diversity and inclusion. Atlassian found that even though 80 percent of their respondents agree that diversity and inclusion are important, representation, retention, and sense of belonging among underrepresented groups remains below 30 percent. The needle hasn’t moved much.

I’ll admit, now is possibly the best time to be a marginalized person in tech compared to the years before us, but is that really saying much? What experience will the new female (or otherwise marginalized) intern have who joins the new hotness in 10 years? The Uber or Riot Games equivalent a decade from now? Are we hoping for her to just not be sexually harassed at her workplace? Is the bar for tech that low? Is that the best we can leave behind? Wanting equal pay, equal respect, equal opportunities, the ability to succeed on our own terms, recognition of the unique skills we all bring to tech instead of an expectation to conform all seem so far away from the baseline of please just don’t sexually harass the new intern.

Today I am sad and disillusioned. I try to work towards improving inclusion at my place of work (and the broader tech industry) and support others who are doing the same. Today it feels like for every step forward we take we’re pushed two steps back. Diversity advocates are burning out. What will the culture of tech look like when we retire? What legacy will we leave behind? Typing these words brings tears to my eyes because today I am not hopeful. Today I’m afraid that the women who come after me will not be able to add anything to the list I started this post with. Am I going to let them down? Are we all?

What experience will the new female intern have in 10 years? Are we hoping for her to just not be sexually harassed at her workplace? Is the bar for tech that low?

Maybe tomorrow I will have ideas and optimism but this is all I have today. I don’t have five steps we can all take to make tech a better place for marginalized communities. I don’t have pro tips for navigating your way through projects and promotions and privileged sexist colleagues to carve a career in this industry. All I have today are questions.

Take a good hard look at the state of the tech industry. Then take a long hard look in the mirror. What are we all doing? What are you doing? What will we leave behind? How will we be remembered?

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