Embracing Equity, IWD

Article by Farnoush Mirmoeini, Co-Founder of KYC Hub

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity as a way to raise gender equality and create a world free of bias or stereotypes.

So where do we stand on this today? What’s it like in 2023 to be a woman in industries such as tech or financial services?

I was shocked to come across a report from the World Economic Forum that showed based on our current trajectory, we will not see gender parity until 2154—i.e. 132 years from now. To put that into perspective, roughly 132 years ago, women were just beginning to gain basic rights such as the right to vote, own property, and work in certain professions. It is unfathomable that we are just at the mid-point between these long forgotten times and total equality. This disparity is a concerning reminder of the work that still needs to be done to reach gender equality in all areas of society.

To improve the representation of women in tech and entrepreneurship, the current approach needs to be revised. At the moment, the measures in place for building women’s networks, promoting diversity, highlighting success stories, and encouraging women to join STEM careers may be there but are not enough. The low representation of women in tech and the limited funding received by female entrepreneurs (only 2% of VC funding goes to female entrepreneurs), may cause successful female tech founders and leaders to be reduced to diversity tokens and their hard work, achievements and merit dismissed.

To accelerate this, changes must be more fundamental, more inclusive, and more widespread. This includes:

  1. Support from decision makers: Given that the majority of decision makers in technology, finance, and venture capital are male, it is imperative for men to understand and accept women as equal. Decision makers and senior leaders should regularly be educated with case studies, literature, and statistics to be able to support and advocate for promotion and funding for women.
  2. Addressing unconscious bias: Another important issue that affects women’s advancement is unconscious bias as well as unchallenged assumptions and perceptions. Becoming aware of one’s own biases and understanding how they impact one’s perceptions and decisions is the first step in overcoming unconscious bias. This can be supplemented by challenging assumptions and perceptions via being open to new opinions and underrepresented voices and avoiding confirmation bias.
  3. Acknowledging privilege: Women are constantly bombarded with the glossy image of “the perfect woman”. While it is tempting to not show our weaknesses and failures to the world, projecting the image of perfection is counterproductive. In fact, the only times one comes across mentions of weaknesses is the cookie cutter stories around “I succeeded despite XYZ.” While providing the reader with hope and a happy ending, encountering many of these stories puts a great amount pressure and self-blame on women who are struggling with the same issues.

Efforts for change and support need to come from both men and women. My hope is that leaders acknowledge that there is still a long way to go, and to advocate for these changes and play a larger role in transforming the power balance.