Last year when I accepted the Athena Award for the 2016 Business Woman of the Year in the Private Sector, I committed to devoting myself to advancing women in technology here in Arizona. Since that time, I have co-founded the Phoenix Chapter of Girls in Tech. We launched our chapter in June with more than 400 attendees – where we filled the auditorium at the Arizona Science Center and showed Phoenix what girls and women can do when we follow our dreams. Since then, we have organized weekend coding workshops for girls. We kicked off “The Shatter Series” – evening fireside talks with inspiring women who have broken through barriers – all with the intent of building a community of people who seek to make this city more supportive and encouraging of women in tech, from the classroom to the board room. Through this process, I received tremendous support from my Athena sisters and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, who provided me with a platform to reach a wide audience with my message and helped me recruit an incredible board to bring this mission forward.
However, as I write this, I am still deeply troubled at how far we need to go. In the last few months, we have heard countless revelations of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. From the Silicon Valley to Hollywood to Washington – every power center in this country is tainted with these stories. Courageous women have come forward to tell their stories, and with each account my stomach churns. Not only because they all remind me to some degree of my own experiences. It is already 2017 and in just a few years, when my own daughters enter the workplace, things may still be the same. I hear a clock ticking loudly in my head – reminding me with each passing second that I only have a few years before these stories become my daughters’ stories.
We must stop this.
I call on all men and women who have witnessed inappropriate behavior, who have dismissed these actions as “oh that’s just the way he is” or have participated in enabling or covering up workplace behaviors that are in any way discriminatory or non-inclusive toward people. Not just women, but all people. Speak up. Call them out. We can no longer be silent.
As we celebrate the 2017 Athena recipients, let’s use this as an opportunity speak up and make a difference for the next generation of leaders.
Because the future IS female.
Reach Rebecca on Twitter @RebeccaClyde with questions or comments.