Changing technology from within

I bring you greetings from Corporate-landia!

Ten years ago I was one of the first employees on board a brand new technology industry analysis company. Research turned out to be my dream job. I spend my days talking to interesting people in startups and userland, and then I write about them.

The big surprise is how enterprisey and corporate my dream job has turned out to be. As my company grows, I spend more and more time with Fortune 500 companies in and out of the tech industry, Wall Street banks and pension and hedge funds. The view of feminism from here is decidedly peculiar. On the one hand, you’d never get away with using porn images in a presentation here in Corporate-landia: human resources would eat your entrails.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that women are thin on the ground here, and get scarcer as you climb the power and money ladders. In ten years in the industry I have encountered perhaps fifty or sixty women in very senior positions in banks and software companies; that probably comes to 1% of my contacts.

The glass ceiling is reinforced in all kinds of subtle and manipulative ways. A few examples: if you get pregnant, don’t be surprised if someone absent-mindedly asks if you can postpone the birth for a few weeks. It’s assumed that women won’t come back to work after having children. Because of that assumption, no proper provisions are made for their return to work; lacking this support, I’ve seen many women come back half-heartedly only to resign for good a few weeks later. And while it’s a big priority for me as a mother of two kids, motherhood is very far from being the only area in which women have to struggle for equal treatment in the workplace.

Like Liz, I believe there’s enormous power in solidarity, in reaching out to other women in similar circumstances, in sharing our experiences and what worked for us, even in the simple act of listening to one another and acknowledging the truth of our lives. And like Skud I am excited by success stories and signs of hope, and want to share news of women doing kickass and amazing things!