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Chasing Grace Project spotlights women in tech

Poet Lauren Zuniga is featured in Episode 1 of the Chasing Grace Project, a documentary series about women in tech.
Photo by Beth Pariseau, TechTarget

Diversity Luncheons have popped up with increasing frequency, but in the thirteen years I’ve been a tech reporter I’ve avoided them like the plague. The phrase “separate but equal” always rang in my head when I’d consider them, and I wanted no part of it.

The truth is, many of us women in the tech industry just put up defenses and avoid thinking about these issues at all. I’ve done my best to downplay my gender and prove to the men I approach for interviews that I know my stuff — I’ve simply tried to dissociate from gender altogether.

The Chasing Grace Project, a documentary film series about women in tech that made its debut at the luncheon, was a big part — maybe the most important part — of the reason I showed up this time, during a midday break at the Cloud Foundry Summit. I’d followed the project for months. It’s woman-run, which isn’t always the case with such projects. Its production values seem high, and a finished piece of artistic work appeals more to me than a lunch hour of free-form woolgathering about diversity.

Episode 1 of Chasing Grace confronts the pay gap between men and women in tech, a topic that highlights a data problem in the industry. Part of the reason some still argue about whether a wage gap really exists is that even in an age of advanced analytics and machine learning, the industry lacks good data on jobs and average salaries.

Moreover, even at companies that examine internal data to close the pay gap, the problem is not straightforward, said an audience member, an executive at a well-known IT consulting firm.

“People are at the right pay level, but maybe not at the right level of seniority within the organization,” she said. “You can address the pay gap, but that doesn’t address a lack of opportunities.”

That’s where deeper-seated issues come in, issues that begin in early childhood as boys and girls are socialized differently, audience members suggested. The problems also present their own vicious cycle — pay disparities and the thornier opportunity discrepancy leave fewer visible female leaders and mentors in positions to attract and guide young women in tech, and fewer young women are drawn to tech careers as a result.

None of the issues discussed at this Diversity Luncheon were solved there, of course. Women in tech still have their work cut out for them. But the event closed on an optimistic note.

“We know how to close these gaps — there are three or four different ways to do it, it’s just a matter of people being willing to take the initiative,” said Chasing Grace director Jennifer Cloer. “It’s happening, but it takes a long time, and we need to be patient. But persistent.”

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