International Women's Day 2018: Lots to Celebrate, But Still Much to Do

For many women — myself included — International Women's Day is a day of mixed feelings. It’s a day to celebrate the strides women have made in the past and present, encourage each other to keep fighting the good fight, and inspire future generations of young women and girls. But at the same time, we face the fact that true gender equality is still a long ways off.

IWD, therefore, isn't just a day to toast women's progress. It's a day to actively pursue the collective goal of closing gender gaps in all forms.

There are plenty of reasons why the lack of gender representation in the tech sector is still particularly notable. Judith Spitz, Founding Director of the WiTNY Initiative, highlighted several of these reasons in her speech at the 2016 Propeller Innovation, and while they all remain relevant today, I want to highlight three that hit close to home:

  1. First, for many years there has been a gap between women and men studying and graduating from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), but only the field of technology has been backsliding in terms of female enrollment. This is happening even as women have earned more college degrees than men for the last three decades.
  2. At the same time, tech is by far the fastest-growing job market in the U.S., and many positions are going unfilled. We've always wanted more women in our tech ecosystem—but now it's a matter of needing them more than ever. Without their inclusion, our tech workforce simply won't be large enough.
  3. Tech jobs also happen to be among the most well-paid. Economic disparity already divides men and women, but if women are empowered to take some of the tech positions that are currently emerging or empty, perhaps this wage gap could start to close.

The challenges we face in the tech sector exist in every industry. According to McKinsey's recent study, Women in the Workplace 2017, progress in achieving equal representation may actually be stagnating.

A large reason for this is misperception: almost half the men who participated in McKinsey's study, and a third of the women, stated that women were well represented in companies where only one in ten senior leaders was female. 63 percent of men say their company is taking steps to address the lack of gender diversity, compared to 49 percent of women. 15 percent of men even stated that gender-equal representation may hinder their job prospects. Gender diversity is an imperative, and we should all be in it together.

Companies with diverse teams tend to be more successful at intuiting and meeting their customers' needs, engaging with their employees, and being more innovative. If there's one thing we've learned at Okta, it's that having a diverse team pays off. I'm proud of our Women@Okta group, and the talented, ambitious women who drive the success of this company in all departments and at all levels. I'm proud of how inclusion and identity are the keystones of our company culture. Today, Okta is matching employee donations up to $1,000 to organizations supporting women and girls around the world (Global Fund for Women, She Should Run, Malala Fund, Girls Who Code, and Catalyst).

Gender equality is intuitively good for all of us — especially in business, and even more so in tech — and today marks an important reminder of all that we’ve done, and of the work we have left to do.