Utah businesses need more women at the table
It’s Women’s History Month, which always makes me reflective, grateful, and determined. I started my career as one of only three women in my computer science graduating class. Little did I know, at the time, that would also be the case for much of my career as a woman in tech. For years, I was almost always the only woman in the room, and the higher I climbed, the farther any other women were on the org chart.
While things are changing in tech, we still have a way to go. Women are ~50 percent of the workforce but only 23 percent of the tech workforce and still today only about ~5 percent of tech execs are women. Today women hold the majority of college and post-graduate degrees and are claiming more seats at the executive level than ever before. Early in my career, I used to get a surprised or chilly reception when I took my seat at the table. But now the colleagues I interact with know there should be more women at the table, and many readily move to make space for them.
But so much more is still needed. Women must be in all of the rooms decisions are getting made, at every level and in every capacity. They should be a higher percentage of the technology workforce, especially in executive and leadership positions. Those changes are happening slowly, but we need to accelerate them at every stage of the economic pipeline and societal level.
The common phrase we use and hear around this topic is that women need to claim a seat at the table, and it’s undeniable that women should have one. But there’s an unfortunate misconception that this is a zero-sum game, that there are a finite number of seats at the table, and that for one person to be at the table means, someone else won’t be. This is untrue in every way and hurts progress for women and for everyone. The table gets better, not by creating competition to jockey for seats, but by filling it with as many different voices and perspectives as possible. Adding more people to the table does not diminish the importance of each individual voice, it elevates the entire table and enriches the conversation and collective work.
Shirley Chisholm is famous for challenging women to bring a folding chair if there isn’t a seat for them at the table, but I would take that a step further: Bring two. Bring a chair for yourself and a chair for someone else, because accelerating people is the fastest and most meaningful way we will enact real change. And once we all realize that the table has infinite room for more people, insights, and experiences, everyone at the table will benefit from the added chairs.
If you already have a seat at the table, please realize there is infinite seating capacity. We need everyone at the table to shift from thinking about what they individually contribute to what they can inspire and accelerate others to do. That’s the kind of vision that motivates and unites people to do incredible things, and it’s the kind of dialogue and leadership we need to truly make progress for women. That’s the kind of change and acceleration that will make it so that a decade from now, we won’t be having this conversation because we will have changed the world for women.
And if you are a woman without a seat at the table, bring two folding chairs. One for you, and one for someone else you should be there. And for everyone, pull up another chair, because together the more chairs the more we accelerate change.