Why is it so hard to find quotes from women in tech?
A good quote is powerful. It inspires, motivates and provokes curiosity in a short, memorable bundle of words.
At Decoded we use quotes in our learning content to help bring concepts to life and tell a story. We find that when a quote comes from the CEO of a pioneering company or an innovative industry leader, it not only excites our learners but gives them a way to remember and summarise a section of learning.
But we had a problem. Earlier this year, we undertook an audit of all the quotes used in our learning materials and found that the vast majority came from white men, usually British or American. We teach a truly global audience so decided it was time to make our quotes reflect the diversity of our learners. We set ourselves a simple target: 50% of our quotes must come from women, and 50% from people of colour. How hard could it be?
For International Women’s Day, I wanted to share our experience of tracking down quotes by women about tech as well as taking the opportunity to highlight some of our favourite quotes we found.
I thought the easiest place to start would be with the legendary Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube. I searched “Susan Wojcicki quotes”, sure to find some powerful quotes that would nicely summarise the importance of AI, or maybe some of its pitfalls — after all, Youtube heavily relies on algorithms, so surely she must talk about it all the time to the press?
I eagerly clicked on Brainy Quotes, and for Susan, 12 of the 23 quotes on the first page were about being a woman or mother in tech. An important topic of course, but if we compare this to the first page of Brainy Quotes for Mark Zukerberg — also a social media CEO, a man who has stated multiple times about the need for diversity in tech, only 1 of the 23 quotes on his first page was about diversity in tech. Obviously, we agree with that sentiment at Decoded, but those quotes just weren’t going to fit into our workshops on cybersecurity or digital transformation, and we also didn’t just want one “token” quote from a woman talking about fellow women in our workshops, we wanted to share her insights from what she had learnt from her time in the industry. We wanted to inspire and motivate our learners with her expertise.
It wasn’t of course only Susan Wojcicki. When I searched for any leading woman in tech, the only quotes I could find were related to being a woman, a mother, or the importance of getting more women and girls interested in tech. Why is this?
A simple search of “Susan Wojcicki Interview”, will bring up countless interviews in newspapers and magazines, and in these, she does give some real insight into the power of machine learning, and the importance of humans making the final decisions. It’s just that her words about these topics don’t seem to be lifted. Instead, the interviewer always seems to take the conversation onto the fact she is a woman, and it is these words that are quoted and shared beyond the interview transcript. By contrast, we don’t know what Mark Zuckerberg does ‘when his children go to sleep’ — we only know what he does in the evenings.
So what did we do about it? How could we, or anyone, find quotes from women talking about data, AI, cybersecurity, and digital transformation?
We were going to need to embark on some extensive research if we were to meet our 50% target. We started with our favourite podcasts, searching through their archives to find interviews with women. We researched large companies like Google and Amazon, looking out for blog posts written by women on tech subjects. Of course, we also tried various variations of “Female Tech leaders’, or “Female CEOs”, and then searched for interviews with each of these women.
Wherever possible we sought the original interview and transcript, we had learnt that there may be thought-provoking and compelling commentary given in interviews that is sadly rarely referenced.
The result: through our lengthy research, we have been able to create a rich library of quotes from women discussing important themes in tech. Our product developers and teachers can use this library to create inspirational learning content, enabling them to introduce new concepts, approaches and skills in a memorable and impactful way that reflects the diversity of our learners.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Break the Bias’. This post demonstrates that sometimes we need to put extra effort in if we are to break the bias.
We look forward to the day when the bias has been broken and in the meantime, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we wanted to share with you some of our favourite quotes from women on tech, as voted for by the Decoded team.