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In Politics And Tech, 2017 Was The Year Of The Woman

Women are taking a few seats at the table

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Motivated women are doing something to change a systematically unjust status quo and bring more women to the forefront of politics and tech. A year after the most qualified woman lost to the least qualified man, women everywhere are taking a stand. From the march on Washington to the Women's Convention in Detroit to the fierce women disrupting the startup scene, change is coming.

Some are calling 2017 the “Year of the Woman” because of the groundbreaking wins across the country. More and more women are running, on both sides of the aisle, thanks to groups like Emily’s List and SheShouldRun. Women won a record-high 28 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates, and female mayors were elected in cities from Charlotte to Seattle. Debbie Walsh, a political analyst at Rutgers University said, “These women really defied conventional wisdom – 30 percent of Democratic women who ran as challengers [in Virginia] won.”

A few women, like Jennifer Carroll Foy, decided to run in response to President Trump’s election. Foy, who became pregnant and gave birth during the campaign, reflects a more general trend among female candidates who are choosing to run even though they have young children. Foy said, “I knew that I didn’t have to choose between being a mother, or an attorney, or a wife, or a candidate. Those should all be ‘ands.’” Some analysts think this was a bellwether of things to come and predict a bigger “Year of the Woman” in 2018.

Women in tech are reacting to the current landscape as well: the startup PurplePatriot is designed to help more women get involved on a daily basis as active constituents. When asked how the app will make it easier for women to get involved, co-founder Christine Templin says, “By providing a simple easy to use platform build around issues and actions, it allows busy women to stay engaged and active. You can call your rep from the soccer sideline as you watch your kid’s game, learn about the budget bill and how it will impact your family from your couch as you relax before bed.” She says that even though the idea for the app came as a reaction to the 2016 election, it’s designed to be nonpartisan -- “Purple is a mix of red and blue, and we’re trying to make it easier for people, for everybody, to advocate for issues as individuals, not just as members of a party.”

Right now PurplePatriot has data at the federal level, but in the next few weeks, state-level data will be available for five states as a beta test -- California, Texas, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Local is the next step. During the interview, Christine also mentioned certain obstacles she’s had to overcome as a woman in tech, obstacles that another startup hopes to mitigate: “there are really too many to name- unconscious bias, conscious bias, limited role-models and mentors, limited women - the majority of my time in tech has been spent meeting with different men.”

One of the most ubiquitous and significant areas unconscious gender bias is present in tech is usually a woman’s first interaction with the space on a professional level: the job interview. Although many tech job interviews are conducted over the phone or an online voice call, a woman’s voice gives away her gender. The company "Interviewing.io" plans to mitigate the issue of gender bias in tech job interviews through the use of voice modulation to mask gender.

Interviewing.io is an anonymous interview platform tech companies use to find the right candidate for the job without biases. Recently, they’ve experimented with voice modulation to mask gender -- making men sound more like women and women sound more like men and comparing their interview performance, to counteract some troubling trends they’ve seen. One of them being, men are 1.4 times as likely as women to advance to the next round of job interviews. While the tool is still in use, one of the first experiments they did with voice modulation showed that men who were modulated to sound like women did a little better than unmodulated men, and women who were modulated to sound like men did a little worse than unmodulated women. Founder Aline Lerner credits those results to a confidence gap, citing another one of their statistics, that women who had one bad interview were 7 times as likely to stop using interview.io as men who had one bad interview.

Kevin Miller, a researcher at the American Association of University Women names the confidence gap as an important factor in the tech gender gap. He cites a Harvard Business Review study, saying, “Men are more likely to apply for jobs in the first place, even if they aren’t fully qualified, whereas women will assume that they need to be fully qualified in order to apply,” and also noted that one reason for a gender gap in politics is that women don’t run as much as men.

That might have been true before 2017, but if the “Year of the Woman” shows us anything, it’s that those trends are changing. And tools like PurplePatriot, that put the ability to engage right in your hand, will surely help women make their voice heard politically, just like interviewing.io wants to help make women’s voices heard in tech.

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