Marianne Steen

At Work

Why Women in Tech Make Sense

First draft of my speach at this event taking place on September 6th 2019 at tech festival.

McKinsey conclude that gender diverse teams perform better on profitability and value creation with a plus 20% margin. You can find all the information on their Diversity Matters home page.

It makes sense to me.

A diverse team will better understand your customers, hence make better products and work environment improves with diversity.

I prefer to focus on diversity, not gender.

However, due to the numbers in the tech industry, it does make sense to talk about gender or more precisely the dominant personality traits connected to gender.

Masculine energies are characterized by Linear, Structured, Protective, Direction, Logical, Focused, Stable, Disciplined, Confident, Fast, Hard

Feminine qualities are non-linear, intuition, nurturing, Empathy, Affection, Sharing, Tender, Patient, Slow, Sensitive

Can a man be more feminine than a woman? Yes. 

Can a woman be more masculine than a man? Yes. 

However, the qualities that are expressed and dominant in a team or organisation, whether masculine or feminine, are determined by numbers. 

And we all know the numbers in tech.

I have lived half my life offline (Before internet) and the other half of my life online and therefor think I am in quite a good position to compare the two scenarios; Analog and humanes against digital and machines. 

I am an internet pioneer from 1994 and wrote my first book on internet job search in 1997.

And I am a soon to be extinct species as a crossover between analog and digital. In twenty years from now, people like me, who have lived in a time with no surveillance, no connectivity and planty of privacy will be extinct from the work place.

Give that a thought….

To give an example on my thoughts on tech and development I will introduce you to work before internet.

My first real job was at a patent office on Gråbrødre Torv. In one of the old buildings, a red townhouse. 

My job-functions – my activities – were doing pretty much what outlook, Word and File manager is doing today.

The outlook job was to stamp mail with the right date, sort it, and distribute it so it ended on the right desk.

And at the end of the day put outgoing mail into envelopes, stamp and take to the post office.

My file manager job was taking copies and filing them upstairs, in a cupboard, under the roof.

My Word job was to count words. The standard of invoicing patent application was by word count.

Fast Forward to today:

Today all these visible and tangible tasks and functions, activities, have been transformed into soft machines that we all work with daily. 

While the feminine aspects, the purpose of the job, are still missing.

The purpose of my job, and the secretaries job, was to take frustrations away, solve tasks seamlessly, proactively avoid conflicts – make the work of the engineers and managers less stressful.

And I remember when working there, thinking to myself, I want my own secretary one day.

But what have I gotten? Stupid software who instead of taking stress away, stresses me.

While coding the task solution functionality it seems as the purpose of the job, completely has been forgotten – or maybe the value and importance has been neglected because those were women job. 

The developers have build in the functionalities, but they forgot the purpose.

And if we continue on this path I have to ask: Who is going to serve who? Are machines serving us – me in my daily work OR am I serving machines? 

It seems to me the latter is becoming more and more prevalent.

Just look at the statistics on stress, anxiety, worries not to mention online bullying, stalking, and what I like to call a rising amount of digital frustration, and screen anger. 

Personally, I can mention Rejsekortet, Parking, Nemid, not to mention logins, passwords, cloud hosting and credit card information that can make my blood boil and heart race.

The first version of the digital infrastructure that has been built so far has provided us with faster, smarter – but alsom more frustrating solutions. 

However, I also believe this is changing, now.

I believe we are not only living in a time of digital transformation but also in a time of what kind of personal qualities and personal traits will be most valuable.

Because – What is the story behind the McKinsey “Diversity Matters” numbers?

It is that work is changing because of connectivity and because of the possibilities that lie in connectivity. If we do it right. 

When you look at the landscape of the new collaborative workplace it is evident that it is transforming and with this transformation there is a demand for a new type of skills that support exactly that; collaboration – not competition.

Feminine skills like nurturing, sharing and caring are needed – both in leadership as well as in developer teams.

And feminine, will, from a most likely perspective, start with creating gender balance. 

In tech, diversity means filling out the gaps, in regards of gender, age, cultures and personality traits.

I have tried during my whole career to fit in. To please society, to impress managers (men) and not to be weird in a team as only woman. No matter how hard I tried – I still felt wrong.

And mind you: Quotas and awards like “female entrepreneur of the year” Do. Not.Help.

From my own experience, I believe that women who have worked or who are working in tech are the first important step towards greater diversity at work. 

Women in tech know how it feels to be different, to be the outcast, the stranger, not to be taken seriously, to get special (not in a good way) treatment. And to my experience? Women in tech often carry a balance between the masculine and the feminine. The feminine qualities due their gender and the masculine qualities due to their work.

So if you want to create winning teams for the future? 

Diversity starts with women.

And that’s why

women in tech as well as ‘Women-in-tech’ as well as all make sense.

Thank you.