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My Employees Are On Strike

womens march pathable women on strike

Several of my employees are on strike today, and I couldn’t be happier. Here's why Pathable supports its employees who are on strike.

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

March 8 is International Women’s Day, which is usually celebrated in the US with an awareness campaign about the importance of women’s rights. Additionally this year, many women, including those on our staff, are choosing to participate in a Day Without a Woman by refraining from paid and unpaid work.

Why do this? The Day Without Women, according to the day's organizers, is meant to showcase “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system—while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.” It is taking place in coordination with the International Women’s Strike, with participants from over 50 countries.

They have every reason in the world to strike: in our country, women earn 20% less for every hour worked than their equally qualified male counterparts in the same position. Women's rights to make decisions about their own health care, marriage, or divorce is already illogically curtailed or judged in much of the country, and the present political situation threatens it further. And, most insidious of all, the simple, thoughtless daily pleasures that I and men like me take for granted, like walking in the park alone at night or having a drink with a friend or colleague at a bar, are corrupted with fear, judgment, or anxiety in too many women.

I’m not okay with the kind of gender relations that exist in our society. Women’s rights are human rights, and by supporting the women’s general strike day on March 8,  we are expressing a clear stance against the marginalization of women.

Women in the Workforce Improve Financial Performance and Innovation

As a business owner, though, social justice is only one aspect of importance in creating an equitable environment for men and for women: diversity is intrinsically valuable for an organization making complex decisions. Studies have shown that firms who make it a priority to improve the balance of women in the workforce see improved operational and financial performance, increases in innovation, better problem-solving and group performance, and a stronger brand.

Why? Because when everyone in a decision-making capacity comes from the same background, shares the same perspective, the conclusions they come to will naturally be limited by that perspective.

However, when we are inclusive of people from different backgrounds, whether that's defined by gender, race, religion or culture, we bring new ideas and approaches to problem-solving. That, in turn, leads to more creative, higher quality decisions. And that's good business.

“Toxic Workplaces Will Persist As Long As Fairness Is Just A Matter Of ‘Compliance’”

Company policy at Pathable mandates equal pay and opportunity and has a firm stance against discrimination, regardless of sex, race, religion or sexual orientation. However, we cannot treat these issues as just matters of compliance or legal obligation. Especially in terms of creating an equitable workplace.

As CEO and President, I recognize that the time our employees spend with our company is only a thin cross-section of their lives, and the cultural pressures we put on women are as omnipresent as the air we breathe. To get where they are, they grew up in a world that treated girls differently and expected different things from those girls.

And that matters. There are volumes of data that clearly show that how we're treated as we grow up, what people subtly communicate who they expect us to be, can define who we become, for better or for worse.

As a graduate student at the University of Washington, I worked with Anthony Greenwald to develop the Implicit Attitude Test (IAT), a simple test that demonstrated how even our unconscious preconceptions and biases can influence our moment to moment assessments and beliefs. That experience, not just with seeing the results from a huge variety of people across gender, race and political spectra, but with my own results, drove home to me the daily challenges women face, especially in traditionally male fields such as science, math, and engineering.  

We Must Take Concrete Action to Correct Inequity for Women

The technology industry, in particular, suffers from a gender inequity problem. This was apparent in the painfully skewed proportions of women in math, science and engineering careers long before the recent experience Susan Fowler had as an engineer at Uber lit up the mainstream press.

But did you also know that women make up only 19% of tech senior vice presidents and 15% of CEOs? In 2004, for example, "women earned 60 percent of the PhDs in fields other than science and engineering, but only 44 percent of the PhDs in science and engineering."* , and those numbers have only shifted slightly with the gender gap running from entry level through the c-suite, according to a newer McKinsey study.

Pathable is a software company, and we subscribe to the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, who said " if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

We believe we must take concrete action to support correcting the inequity we see around us. And that's the reason that in addition to supporting the women in our organization who choose to strike for equality, Pathable offers a scholarship for women in computer science. This past year's beneficiary, Rebecca McCabe of Pennsylvania perfectly exemplifies what we hope for the future of technology and our equitable workforce:  academic excellence, as well as curiosity, creativity, and leadership (and we love how she tickled our fancy with her work in Lego robotics).

We're proud to assist her in pursuing a career in computer science and hope that through the example of her success, she can change the perceptions people have of women's potential in STEM, which, in turn, can help encourage future generations of women to pursue a similar path.

So, it only seems just to me that the women of our company join women all over the world for the International Women's Strike on March 8th. There may be some delays in providing our services to our customers that day, but that is simply a demonstration of the impact that women have on every aspect of our business and our lives, and a small price to pay for progress.

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Here's a great primer from Jezebel on what to expect on A Day Without Women.

Learn more about how to support and participate in A Day Without Women via Bustle.