We can’t let the pandemic derail decades of progress for gender diversity

If there's one year you pay attention to an International Women's Day, let it be this one. 

In Brazil, femicide and domestic abuses are up. 

In India, women's slow progress towards economic independence is on hold now. 

In Japan, while men's suicide rates fell slightly, women's rate increased by 15%. In one month, October 2020, the female suicide rate in Japan went up by over 70%, compared with the same month in the previous year.

In the USA, a state legislator said this, not in the 1880s, but 2021: "I don't think anybody does a better job than mothers in the home, and any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child, I don't think that's a good direction for us to be going."

You get the picture. Things were not great for women of the world before the pandemic, but at least there was slow progress. That progress is now in grave peril. 

How are we doing in the tech industry?

The tech industry hasn't fared significantly better, even though it offers the most options for asynchronous and flexible work. 

  1. Even before the COVID crisis, women only held less than a quarter of all tech jobs. With the pandemic's childcare crisis, now the prediction is that it will set women back by a generation. What's worse, this number is lower than the percentage of tech jobs held by women in the 1980s.

  2. Girls are less likely to study STEM subjects. According to the Women In Tech report by PWC, 83% of boys in high school opt for STEM subjects as opposed to only 64% of girls. Over two-thirds of women do not even consider a tech career. 

  3. Women of color face more formidable challenges. According to recent research, while women make up roughly 25% of computer science professionals, only 4% are black women and 1% Latina women. 

Sure this is a fight for morality, equality, and justice. But if those causes alone don't inspire you, here's a stark economic reality from McKinsey. By their calculations, there could be a $13 trillion positive impact if we collectively improve the situation in a post COVID world. 


If you are wondering what you could do or how you can help, here's a detailed paper on that as well. 

What are we doing at ThoughtSpot?

My biggest lesson is that we can never take our eyes off this vital area. About 18 months ago, we did a pay-parity audit, and we felt good that we were alright in this area. But, just this week, I was told that there was at least one case we may have missed. 

Improving diversity is a slow, challenging process. Sparking interest for girls in technology, science and math at an earlier age is one key ingredient in addressing the pipeline problem. Last year, ThoughtSpot partnered with the girls + data organization and sponsored five workshops till date. Their mission is to increase data literacy, pique interest, and exposure to non-coding careers in technology by making the subject of data interesting and relevant to middle and high school girls. 

We committed to making ThoughtSpot a more flexible, asynchronous workplace. We want people to work for us from wherever, whenever, and for however long they can, in whatever environment makes them successful. If that means working during the middle of the day, taking a break to take care of children, then resuming in the evening, then that works for us.  

We also have an open community that supports women who work at ThoughtSpot: ThoughtSpot Women's Group (TWG) which enables career growth and encourages individuals to reach their full potential both in the company and more broadly within the tech community. 

Still, we have a long way to go. There is hard work ahead for all of us, but men in particular, to overcome unconscious bias, fight misogyny, or simply speak up when they see inequality. We have to create companies in a society where every voice matters equally. We have to push harder than ever to make this a reality, and this year’s theme has never been more critical. 

We must all #ChooseToChallenge, not only the barriers that have existed for decades for women, but the new ones exacerbated by COVID-19. 

Doing nothing simply isn’t an option.