Women in Tech: Applying Design Thinking Approach for encouraging Female in technology
How far can we extend the Design Thinking Approach?
Social Media platform, Instagram, recently made news because some of its users had to lie about their identity in their profiles. The reason was a “shadow ban” that the photo and video sharing app had enacted on a particular group of users. According to these users, Instagram’s analytics seemed biased against them and lying about their identity was the only option they were left with to maximize their online visibility. These users were all women. They had to put their gender in their profiles as male.
Bumble, a dating app based out of the US witnessed shocking success in just five months in the Indian Market. The USP that worked in favor of this app is that, in case of a heterosexual ‘match’ of admiration, it’s only the women who get to begin the conversation. The step was taken to lower the chances of unsolicited communication between the two parties. A seemingly simple enough feature and yet none of the Bumble’s competitors like Tinder, Happn or even India’s own, TrulyMadly failed to think of it. The reason, perhaps, is that the app, unlike its above-mentioned competitors, was founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd – a woman
Here is what we can conclude from these two stories:
- There’s a visible lack of perspective in the solutions. No matter how relevant the technology is to the market needs, the absence of an entire point of view makes the solution indifferent (even negatively biased) to a large number of end-users.
- Organizations that empower their women employees and leaders are likely to offer more layered services that cater to a larger group of potential customers.
While the debate about the gender pay gap and workplace sexual harassment is still something that the whole corporate world is dealing with, there are a lot of issues that IT as an industry has to work on internally. One of the biggest issues in this respect is the lack of diversity based on gender roles. In simpler words – Less Women in tech
In this article, we will try to find a working solution for this problem using one of the most popular solutions fashioning approaches, the Design Thinking Approach. Before we move on, let us revise the steps for Design Thinking Approach:
- Empathize: Collecting raw data from the pool of users that would ultimately benefit from the solution
- Define: Translating the raw data into a language understandable and workable for the solution providers
- Ideate: Brainstorming over the popular solutions for the problem statement(s) and coming up with a set of feasible solutions
- Prototype: A physical projection of the solutions ideated that can help the end-users to understand the working of the ultimate product
- Test: Testing the prototype with the end-users and refining the solution with the help of the feedbacks
Let us talk about the numbers. According to a research held by Price Waterhouse Coopers UK, here are some points we know for fact:
- Less than 5% of females pick IT as their first career choice.
- A little less than 80% of students are unable to name famous Women in Technology
- On the other hand, more than 15% of women have been suggested a career in technology
- Still, women hold only 5% of leadership positions in IT
From empathy point of view, few things become apparent:
- The representation for women outside the IT world is considerably lower than the required threshold. Thus, even if the welcome mat is rolled out for them in the IT industry, these women tend to look for other option
- Even for the existing Women in Tech, attaining merely a handful of leadership positions is also a Demotivation factor in this equation. This not only causes hurdles for the women outside but also inside the IT world; sending out an even more negative message to everyone
Therefore, the problem stamen can be defined as:
“We need a solution that can encourage representation of Women in Tech industry, and enables them to rise to or start with more leadership positions in their organizations”
Based on our internal research, here are a few pointers that can help us work out a solution:
- More visibility of female workforce to the job-seekers and students to ensure better representation of Female in technology
- Including the recruitment team with a good number of women employees (possibly from a diverse background) to enable more female recruitment than usual
- An open mind while promoting and hiring employees to leadership roles. Having female leaders in the firm will not only help to create an internal safe space but also put the firm as inclusive to the outside world
- Going back to the points of the prevailing issues of the corporate world i.e. gender pay gap and sexual harassment, a safe space for Women in Tech is also necessary. Steps can be taken to provide a space for them to voice their concerns until the work environment is not at a practical equilibrium.
These points can help organizations to ideate customized solutions based on where they stand.
Just like the Bumble story, there are many stories from IT and Non-IT backgrounds that highlight the effectiveness of the solution points we ideated. These can be followed by other organizations as prototypes for formulating their solutions to encourage more Women in Tech. Here are a few examples:
- In 1999 popular live TV sketch show Saturday Night Live appointed Tina Fey as its first female head writer in 25 years
- In 2015, Shreya Mishra along with two fellow IITians started an online rental portal for fashion – Flyrobe. The idea behind the portal was to allow users to have different outfits for different special occasions without having to buy them.
- In 2017, the India based digital media company, Culture Machine, enacted a policy of ‘menstrual leave’ for its female employees.
Here are the consequences of the points mentioned above as prototypes:
- During her tenure as head writer, Tina Fey ensured that sketches written by women writers were treated with equal respect as those written by male writers this helped the writing room to accommodate more diverse ideas. Also, the regular SNL viewers go to see more a wider range of sketches than they were accustomed to.
- Not only is Flyrobe an interesting idea, but it also goes to tell that encouraging a certain perspective in the industry will give birth to some innovative solutions.
- The menstrual leave policy at Culture Machine helped women employees to deal with the health problems related to menstruation. It also started a conversation in the organization that was necessary to remove the taboo aspects of the topic.
Encouraging gender-based inclusivity in the IT industry is the need of the hour. Digital Transformation is spreading its wings, and it needs all the help it can get to fly high. Design Thinking Approach is a great aid to strategize against real-world problems like encouraging Women in the Technology industry. It will help the organizations to provide service inspired by a more diverse range of innovators. Creating a space that is welcoming towards women, in general, will allow a larger range of thought leaders who are yet skeptical about working in an environment conventionally dominated by a very small group. After all, an inclusive set of inputs will lead to an evolved output.