As a woman who has lived through the civil rights and women’s movements from the sixties to the present, Melinda Gates’ study on gender equality in tech companies brings disappointing news on both fronts.

“Unsurprisingly, the gender gap in computing degrees translates to a gender gap in the tech workforce. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in 2017, women held only 26 percent of jobs in the computing workforce.” Women of color are the most underrepresented. Gates continues, “In 2017, black women held only 3 percent of computing jobs, and Latinas just 1 percent.”

While many tech companies acknowledge “they have a lot to gain by making diversity a priority,” Gates wanted to understand how much of their philanthropic and social responsibility initiatives goes “toward gender diversity.”

Her recently released report, Rebooting Representation: Using CSR and Philanthropy to Close the Gender Gap in Tech,reveals that “gender diversity is not yet a philanthropic priority for the technology sector. The 32 technology companies included in this survey spent a total of $500 million on philanthropic giving in 2017, but only 5 percent of that $500 million went toward gender diversity efforts.”

But there’s hope. “Today,” Gates reported, “twelve companies will announce the launch of the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, a joint effort to close the gender gap for women of color in tech that aims to double the number of black, Latina, and Native American women graduating with computing degrees by 2025. The Reboot Representation Tech Coalition is pledging more than $12 million to this goal—which is more than 30 times what the 32 companies we surveyed spent last year on programs for women and girls of color.”

That is great news, and certainly a step toward gender equality. Ruth Bader Ginsberg says, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” As a change manager, I know that statement is true. As a woman, reflecting on all the past efforts on behalf of civil rights, I wish we’d been able to take more steps.

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