This is the #2 article from a series related to diversity & inclusion (see the first one here).
How it came to be? Ayelen and I came together and wanted to talk about this topic a lot more, in the context of OLX Group but not limited to it. One way to start a conversation with everyone in the group was to post an article on our blog, this blog. However, we then realized that this could instead be a series of posts to which more people can contribute to.
DISCLAIMER: This series is based on our own experiences and personal opinion. We do not want to restrict or dictate.
That being said, let’s start with what diversity & inclusion means.
Diversity is used to refer to the various differences between people, ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes to religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. Inclusion is the art of welcoming and embracing all these differences.
In this article, I will be focusing on gender diversity as something that I have more experience with.
One of my favourite things about Berlin is the diversity of people in it. It is a special environment where different cultures come together to live and work. Everyone who has moved here has brought their hometown and/or home country culture with them. It is also one of the aspects that creates quite a bit of friction.
How much do we really know about one another? How truly open are we to understanding each other?
On a personal level, I’ve had many uncomfortable moments throughout the years. Discussing all of them openly is not easy and sometimes feels like a minefield. I’ve been angry, frustrated, annoyed; I felt powerless, I felt enraged, I felt an inexplicable energy and motivation to fight against what was and/or felt unfair — in a nutshell, yes, I have been emotional about it and no, this doesn’t make me weak or less equipped to do my job.
It is one of the things that I as a woman in tech have experienced. A few years ago, in a previous job, when I wanted to take the next step in my career, I hit a wall. I was told that I should focus on my family and my home, that advancing in my career should not be a priority. It was one of the most crucial meetings I’ve ever had and it became an inflection point for me. I could see how my male colleagues were being treated, encouraged and the opportunities they got to grow and it became clear to me afterwards that I was not getting the same support, coaching, nor feedback, and that it was intentional. Doubt and impostor syndrome kicked in.
Was I not good enough? What was missing from my education and skill set? What should I be learning? I want more, but am I capable enough? Am I being overly ambitious?
Looking back, as bad as it sounds, I appreciate the honesty of that moment. It shook me to the core. As mentioned above I questioned a lot of things, however in the end I became more observant, more mindful and a hell of a lot more determined. I decided that this was not acceptable, that I need to grow stronger and learn how to deal with these things on the spot and afterwards, that I should go find a way to, if not prevent, at least reduce the number of times women need to hear this directly or indirectly.
That trigger gave me an extra energy boost and the next time I found myself in a problematic situation, I was better equipped to deal with it. Learning about the different issues and different ways of addressing these issues has become a constant component of my daily life. You are reading this post today because of this journey.
Education is crucial
Continuous learning and reflecting on the topic have made me realise it was frustrating that we were not using education extensively enough to promote equality, promote situations where both partners are equally involved in everything related to their household, family, etc., and are also encouraged to pursue a career.
It’s even more worrisome when children are not encouraged in the same manner and we see the discrimination starting so early; from certain colour schemes like blue vs pink, to what activities are encouraged to try out and how they are presented to them. You can read more about how education gradually shapes the gender imbalance here, how family, school and society affect boys’ and girls’ performance at school here, and one of my favourite resources from the UN Chronicle on Education as the Pathway towards Gender Equality. This has long term ripple effects in various industries and it leads to a very low percentage of women in them, especially in leadership roles.
In tech we can see people coming together in smaller groups to support each other — which is amazing, don’t get me wrong, however it is not enough.
It is not enough for smaller groups to fight the battle and organise amongst themselves. We need to involve everyone, we need to bring different people in the conversation and we need to call out issues as they are and have those conversations openly.
As women in tech, we need each other, we need to learn from and empower one another, however we should not be doing this in isolation. If we want to have more women at the table, then we need to bring the men and the people who do not identify as either or at the same table. We need to pull one another up and support each other.
We need to change our collective mindset and the way education works in order to remove barriers. I dream of a future where people, whatever job they are doing, are *just* people. No need for gender, race, ethnicity or anything else to be a factor or an attribute. No more telling kids, consciously and unconsciously, that math is for one gender and social sciences is for another one.
This is the power of inclusion: understanding our conscious and unconscious biases and calling ourselves out when we are acting or saying something that originates from them. Let’s learn to recognise them so we can be better human beings, the kind that treat each other with respect.
It is not easy. We as people tend to get defensive when someone calls us out on something or challenges us. We go into protection mode and, in the moment, our survival instinct will trump any rational call for stopping and thinking about it.
Diversity & Inclusion need you — yes, you!
“The data suggests that for diversity to work, workers have to buy into the value of diversity, not just hear some rules about it. Diversity creates positive benefits when people believe in its intrinsic value. They can’t just see gender inclusion as an obligation.”
Change happens when each of us play our part in it, so I want to ask you to answer a few questions for yourselves: Are you encouraging, promoting or hiring someone because they are or look like you? Why is that? Are you aware of your own unconscious biases?
If you look closer, you will see that having different people around creates a healthy dose of friction. Challenging conversations arise and better business outcomes are achieved. How so? Because people learn to listen and process, which leads to everyone rethinking concepts and becoming more open for change and/or alternatives.
Do you want to become a better person/manager/colleague?
Listen to the people around you and don’t always look for mini MEs- especially the managers.
You don’t need to agree with everyone around you, but you owe it to them to listen and understand where their views are coming from. You don’t need to convince one another of the best one out of 2 or 3. It’s a big step forward to accept that the answers don’t have to be identical, that we can all live and work together, independently of our beliefs, gender, etc. You need to speak up when things happen to you or around you if you want to make things better. It comes down to trust, respect and owning the fact that each one of us makes a difference.
At OLX Group we’re addressing Gender Diversity. Here is a message from the CEO: Gender diversity @ OLX Group.