Women's Equality Day's first observance on Aug. 26, 1973, commemorated a 20th-century milestone in women's rights: Legal recognition of their right to vote.
Women's Equality Day recognizes the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That milestone occurred on Aug. 18, 1920.
However, finalizing women's right to vote required a man, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, to certify the change by signing one last document. He carried out this duty in his home without fanfare on August 26, 1920.
More than 50 years later, then-U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug of New York led the initiative to formally recognize this historic moment by designating August 26 as Women's Equality Day. The measure became law in 1973, and the observance continues annually on Aug. 26.
Continue reading for insight and ideas on how tech companies can honor the spirit of Women's Equality Day.
More women than men live in the U.S. Nearly 51% of America's approximately 331 million residents were women in 2021, according to U.S. Census data. And 57.4% of women were in the labor force in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as compared to 69.2% of men that same year.
American women are still recovering from jobs lost during the pandemic. Women held 100,000 fewer jobs in July than in February 2020, according to an analysis of BLS employment data by the National Women's Law Center. Men held 132,000 more net jobs during the same time frame.
In addition, the law center's report notes that many women, "especially those with caregiving responsibilities, disproportionately shifted from full-time to part-time work during the pandemic."
Yet women earn more college degrees than men and have done so for decades.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, women earned 58% of all bachelor's degrees. The trend of women earning more bachelor's degrees than men began nearly 40 years ago, in 1981.
Although more women earn college degrees, a big gap persists when it comes to how much money men earn from their jobs versus women. In 2020, a full-time working woman earned about 82% of what a full-time working man in America earned. White and Asian women earned more on average than Black and Latina women.
While that is unfair, it's worth noting the progress made. In 1979, women earned just 62% of what men did, according to BLS data.
Most men and tech companies want to be inclusive and inviting. Work cultures are stronger than individual intentions. Here is a key opportunity for leadership to create policies that keep efforts to improve gender and race equity at the forefront.
In both our personal and professional lives, technology can connect us with new people and, unfortunately, expose us to harassment and other issues.
Of course, everyone may experience these tech-related challenges. But women working in tech may face specific additional issues.
Here are four familiar issues to consider.
COVID-19 impacted everyone in unique ways, including workforce shifts.
About 579,000 fewer women are in the labor force post-pandemic post-pandemic, recent federal data shows.
One reason is women usually accept or take on more family-related caregiving responsibilities. As a result, they're more likely to reduce their work hours, decline or miss out on opportunities for projects or promotions, or leave their jobs altogether.
Indeed found that 70% of women who cut their hours or quit their jobs reported a lack of support for their need to balance work and home life.
Women in tech are outnumbered by men. According to one report, 72% of women in tech say they're outnumbered by 2:1 or more in meetings, and 26% percent said they're outnumbered by 5:1 or more.
Women may feel their opportunities for mentorship or promotion are limited, and this feeling may indeed be a fact. A lack of representation — intentional or not — may create gender bias in an organization.
Concerns about representation also affect perceptions about advancement. The report said 37% of women surveyed who identify as Black, Latina, Asian, Indigenous, or another racial minority said they see their race as a barrier to promotion.
Another report found that men also tend to get more interviews for tech roles than women.
Education and experience alone may not enable a woman to keep her job. Women face a higher risk than men of having their jobs displaced by artificial intelligence.
According to a 2019 study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, women make up nearly 60% of workers who might be displaced.
Ariane Hegewisch, the institute's program director for employment and earnings, told one news publication that "the impact of technology critically depends on how it is implemented and who is at the table when it is implemented." Many experts and educators share that sentiment when talking about ways to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in tech.
Here's what AI replacing humans at work might look like: A bookkeeping algorithm, for example, may replace a human accountant position. Experts also predict that ridesharing, food delivery, and other app-based, gig-type positions may also be among the first to disappear due to AI and automation.
Women in tech tend to make less money than men. A recent report from Dice found that half of the women in tech surveyed think they're underpaid for their occupation and skill level in their current role.
But half of the women surveyed said they didn't negotiate their salary in a new job at a new company. (Among men, 47% said the same.) Salary negotiation is a critical skill, especially in the absence of salary transparency.
SEE: Computer science salaries: A negotiator's guide
In his Women's Equality Day proclamation in 1973, President Richard Nixon said in part:
In recent years, we have made other giant strides by attacking sex discrimination through our laws and by paving new avenues to equal economic opportunity for women. Today, in virtually every sector of our society, women are making important contributions to the quality of American life. And yet, much still remains to be done. American women, though they represent a majority of our population, still suffer from myriad forms of discrimination.
Nearly 50 years after the observance's first commemoration, US women continue to make important gains in employment, leadership, education, and equal representation.
But they still face myriad forms of discrimination.
Nixon's words from a half-century ago hold true. Firsthand perspectives and data show that business policies and laws, especially in the technology sector, have room for improvement.
With that in mind, here are five ways tech-focused businesses can advance gender equity:
Connect girls with tech experiences
By intentionally providing young girls early opportunities to get their hands and minds on tech experiences, the stage is set for them "to discover their natural wonder around technology," Fortune suggests.
READ THIS: How do you teach younger students computer science?
Refine your recruitment
Are your job ads and position descriptions written with gender and race equity in mind? If not, consider hiring a diversity specialist to help you.
An expert in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can provide advice on how to incorporate inclusive language and policies into your hiring process.
They can also identify recruiting forums that you might not have previously considered.
Create support systems
Employee resource groups, or ERGs, are one of the most common ways employers can create a sense of community. An additional benefit: ERGs can serve as a sounding board or think tank for business decisions before they're implemented outside the company.
One source suggests that creating specific focus areas for ERGs is a good approach to facilitating change.
Establishing ERGs that focus on the women's experiences may lead to work satisfaction for the woman and retention for the employer.
In addition, organizations may also seek to introduce mentorship opportunities that seek to increase and support women's presence at every level of the company, especially leadership.
Embrace the new normal of work-life balance
Right now, many people who can work remotely are choosing to do so.
Home and family responsibilities tend to disproportionately fall on women, and so women would profit if tech companies facilitated these choices.
But everyone benefits and appreciates the opportunity to make their own decisions. By giving workers the option to create a hybrid work schedule that works for them and their families, you're more likely to keep talented people at your company.
Dump 'bro culture' for a genuinely inclusive and diverse one
Your organizational culture can draw people in or be a huge turnoff. "Bro culture," in particular, can feel hurtful and exclusionary to anyone, especially women, who aren't part of the "bro" demographic.
According to one survey, 61% of women of color acknowledged changing the language they use, their hairstyle, or the topics they talk about at work in order to align more closely with their workplace's culture.
Not sure if your organizational culture is intimidating or unhealthy? This checklist can help you identify signs of a bro-driven workplace culture.
Why does this matter? By excluding people who don't fit, bro culture can harm company diversity and society more broadly.
Laila Abdalla obtained her Ph.D. in English from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She taught undergraduate and graduate courses in English and successful writing at Central Washington University for over 21 years.
Currently, Abdalla serves as a Washington state career coach and advocate for individuals on temporary state assistance. Abdalla has devoted her career, teaching, and leadership to matters of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Above all, she is committed to her clients' and students' complete experience, raising awareness of BIPOC issues in employment, language, community, and culture.
Abdalla leads with equity in management and nonprofit volunteering, and continues to develop her own understanding of these complex issues — both professionally and in her lived experiences.
Laila Abdalla is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Last reviewed Aug. 16, 2022.