When I saw that this year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter, I initially wondered if balance existed anywhere and if I’d notice it if it did. Growing up, I was the only sister to three brothers, so there was a definite lack of balance in the toy closet. Before I came to Canvas, I worked in public education, primarily in elementary schools where men are often the outliers. In fact, 76 percent of teachers, 52 percent of principals, and 78 percent of central-office administrators are women.
In the early days at Canvas, I was often one of the few women in the room with product and engineering and have had a front row seat to watch the gender equity conversations in technology play out. We’ve all heard stats like this:
- Nearly 80 percent of young girls are interested in someday working in STEM or computer science
- Women own 5 percent of startups, earn 28 percent of computer science degrees, hold 25 percent of computing jobs, and make up 11 percent of the executive positions at Silicon Valley companies.
- Companies that are more diverse make more money.
- In spite of years of focus, the percentage of women in tech is on the decline.
At first blush, balance doesn’t seem to exist. As I look around, however, maybe I just haven’t noticed. Life has certainly changed here at Canvas. Many of our tech departments have gone from having no or few women to several percentage points more—product, program management, and UI/UX, for example. We still have work to do, but continue to head in the right direction.
There are also big changes in the world at large. Bloomberg won’t let its journalists participate on panels comprised of only men, Salesforce is committed to eliminating pay gaps, and 50 percent of Duolingo's incoming software engineer hires are female. Fifty percent.
But more changes need to happen. Until we stop saying, “I don’t even notice gender” as evidence of our commitment to equality; until we systematically, consistently pay attention; until we decide our company culture, health, and bottom line are worth the effort, we won’t notice where balance exists and where it doesn’t.
One final thought: over the seven years I’ve worked here, I’ve been fortunate to have had the best mentors, coaches, and bosses of my professional life. Bar none. Thank you to all the men and women at Instructure who go out of your way to boost opportunities for women. I, for one, have noticed and am committed to helping the world balance for better.
VP, Canvas K-12 Product Strategy