What does a woman in the IT industry think about International Women’s Day?

It is definitely not March now; my intention with this post is to encourage companies to make a change for real in 2024. If you have been attending Women in IT (kvinnor.it) events from 2017, you know that there has not been any event on March 8th, which has been intentional.

I am forever grateful to everyone, women and their allies, who paved the way for opportunities now available to us. I would have had a different life if the courageous people before me didn’t question the norm, how things were, in their lifetime.

March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day is an important annual reminder of the progress made and how far we still need to go in achieving gender equality, equal pay and opportunities. Even in societies that have made progress, for example, Sweden, subtle biases and inequalities still persist. While the day aims to raise awareness to challenges and issues still facing women worldwide, I feel the day has become over commercialized, with brands using it as a marketing gimmick rather than a call to action and meaningful engagement.

Celebrating this day with flower promotion, dolling up for gala events, and expanding professional network over a fancy meal and drink is nice and breaks the daily routine after a year of juggling responsibilities, raising family, and advancing in career. However, I’d also like to see companies step up and show real commitment through actions all year long to create lasting change, instead of “pinkwashing” the day and repeating slogans of “equality”, “diversity”, and “empowerment” in their website and social media.¬†

As a working woman in the IT industry, I am interested in learning about how companies provide actual support for issues that impact women disproportionately, for example:

  • Do women feel psychologically safe at work to share information about their difficult period, pregnancy, breastfeeding, postpartum, struggles to get pregnant, pregnancy loss, menopause, and other challenges related to female nature? Imagine the relief when there won’t be any stigma around these topics. I wonder how many companies mention these topics during their leadership training programs. I wonder how many women could share information about these topics without facing negative consequences. What do I mean by negative consequences? For example, a manager or a team lead would say: “Don’t you think the way that you handled situation X is because you were sensitive after you went through event Y?”, or “You might need to explain to HR that you report sick day every few weeks due to severe period pain”.
  • I witnessed year after year, groups of “elite” men attending technical conferences and training. How about companies sharing statistics about the fairness of opportunities. For example, how many of their women employees were asked to attend technical conferences? I personally know many highly technical women who prefer their excellent work represent them instead of being the loudest in meetings. Introduce these women in your social media and highlight their hard work and achievements.
  • How do companies support women’s career advancement? In my opinion, companies need long-term plans for retaining and advancing women, not just offering “another generic training”. I’d like to read in LinkedIn about how companies invest in their women employees to land a role leading to senior technical and leadership positions. It is great to see that there are mentorship programs at many companies these days, but how about sponsorship? How can one without a broad network of influential people find a sponsor within a company who opens “the invisible doors”? ¬†Talk about these examples when you hold a megaphone in your social media on March 8th.

Sharing shiny pictures is easy; actions that improve workplace policies and culture are what make a real difference.

Looking forward to reading about how companies foster an inclusive culture where women don’t leave tech industries and feel psychologically safe, on March 8th as well as all the other days of 2024 and beyond.

All the best,
/Samaneh