Women, Tech & Systems Maps: My alternative to the magic bullet

Woman of Asian ethnicity with a worldmap in the background. The countries in the worldmap are creeated using 0 and 1.

Women, Tech & Power (Figure adapted by Patricia Gestoso from Pixabay images).

As a woman joining the university in the late ’80s to pursue an engineering degree, I took for granted that gender parity in the workplace was around the corner. The few female professors in our science and engineering faculties reassured us that we were on a good track. They shared how as students they were only 2-3 women per chemical engineering cohort, whilst we could be counted by tens! The message was clear: “”Don’t complain and work hard. Women’s presence is scaling exponentially”.

It’s 2018 and the World Economic Forum reports that the workplace gender gap will not be closed for 217 years. This disappointing realization has sprung a flurry of expert advice on “the problem” and “the solution”. We are told by some that the problem is women’s self-esteem, by others than it is unconscious bias, whereas others signal the double-bind as the culprit… Simultaneously, we are lectured about how the solution is sitting at the table, or a sponsor, or gender-neutral job specs… Everybody appears to be looking for the one-fix-all cure.

I argue that the gender gap in the workplace is a cloud problem – messy, evolving, and highly dependent on the environment – and it needs to be addressed accounting for the key factors influencing it. With that premise, I’ve created the systems map “Factors accounting for the low representation of women in leadership positions in tech companies“, which identifies 11 crucial forces that worsen/alleviate this problem.


The kumu environment enables the visualization of how each factor improves or hinders the representation of women in tech leadership. See below a preview

6.- Imitating Male Behaviors_SystemsMap

The feedback received so far indicates that this visual tool provides an innovative approach to represent the complexity of the gender imbalance in tech and the need for a multipronged approach to tackle it.

Does this systems map resonate with you? What surprises you? What would you challenge? What do you think is missing?

I’d love to read your feedback in the comments.

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