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BEYOND20


that you weren’t there.” Before then, it hadn’t occurred to me that I was an outlier. I’d briefly considered pursuing an electri-


cal engineering degree, so by comparison computer science was less male-dominated. Even then, I still didn’t think of myself as a ‘woman in tech’ until I started my profes- sional career. More than 30 years later and I’m glad that


I no longer need to think of myself with that qualifier anymore. And while I’m still quite often the only woman in the room or on a call, at least there’s acknowledgement that it shouldn’t be the case. For example, I was recently on a company


board call with 14 attendees, and thanks to the grid-view gallery of participants, it struck me that the entire grid, minus me, was made up of white men. It made at least two other non-executive directors so uncomfortable that they commented on it. It used to be the case that if I didn’t call it out, no one would. Now in 2021, either no one needs to or every- one else does — that’s meaningful progress. As another example, it used to be the case


that we’d have ‘Women in tech’ panel ses- sions at events in an effort to spotlight women who were making contributions. Thankfully, we don’t have that anymore (except for during International Women’s History Month or on International Women’s Day), because we just have women on panels alongside men — or once in a while, a panel that just happens to be composed of all women. We have certainly come a long way.


Diversity must include everyone However, for as far as we’ve come on the gen- der axis, we are woefully behind in other areas. I’ve often said that I didn’t consider


myself as a woman in tech because I was always far more self-conscious about being from an ethnic minority. I grew up knowing that life would be far less complicated and easier if I was a white girl. The Black Lives Matter movement and protests of summer 2020 helped put racial inequality and lack of


diversity at the forefront of the broader con- versation, which was both long overdue and sorely needed. And recent increases in the rate of hate


crimes against east Asians in both the US and in the UK have brought about another con- versation. The future of diversity in tech has to be one which reflects the world at large. We know that that world is not just white and we, as an industry, need to reflect the society we live in. We have a lot of catching up to do, and I wonder whether it will take the same long arc that we did for gender diversity and representation. Will we have to go through a phase of all-


black panel participants or specific days and events to shine a light on ethnic minorities making contributions, or can we learn from the past and avoid the same drawn-out process? Either way, what’s painfully clear is that


tackling ethnic diversity won’t have a ‘job done’ moment either. We won’t have achieved legitimate diversity in tech until we also have social class diversity. We can’t have everyone in tech from “the


best schools” — something I assert with full awareness of my own privilege having attended one of the best computer science degree programmes in the world. And we can’t have everyone in tech from a


certain social class — one in which parents were able to afford laptops, iPads and iPhones for their children. The gulf between the ‘One percenters’ and everyone else is even wider than ever thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Again, in order to reflect the world we’re ser- vicing and living in, we need to do better. I recognise that I raise more questions


than I propose solutions, but you don’t get answers without asking first. I can only hope that the momentum behind gender diversity will expand to include diversity across the board. And only then will I take comfort in equality within the tech sector and for what the tech sector can provide. ■


EileenBurbidgeisafoundingpartnerofLondon- basedventurecapitalfundpassioncapital


COMMENT


I FULLY BELIEVE THAT IN TIME ALL INDUSTRIES,COMMERCIAL UNDERTAKINGSANDBUSINESSES WILL BECOMETECH-ENABLED


April/May 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 47


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