“I don’t know why women need their own group” said the CEO

Today we’re releasing the next profile in our series ‘Meet the Women of Chasing Grace,’which features UX Designer Donna Chan. Donna tells us the story of finding herself immersed in bro culture and the backlash she and a couple other women in her office experienced when trying to start a women in tech group. That headline up there, that was the response from her CEO. Watch the short below to see what Donna’s reaction was to this.

Since starting The Chasing Grace Project, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of women in tech groups inside companies. Most often the groups are started by individual women who are looking for a way to connect at work. They feel isolated and alone, because there are so few women on their teams.

The groups are proving powerful, because both men and women feel inspired to build and innovate when they connect with each other in a meaningful way and when they believe others understand them. It makes the role of community critical in recruiting and retaining female tech talent.

Something else has changed over the last 4–5 years. I helped to start the first Women in Open Source Lunch at LinuxCon (now Open Source Summit) in 2013, which was only open to women. That was by the request of our community and was standard at that time. Today, most women in tech lunches and groups are open to both women and men, which is deepening the dialog. It is worth noting that some groups are designed for just women or just men, and those groups serve an important purpose as well. We need both. But the conversations are evolving and this is progress.

There is so much good work happening to build inclusive environments and to support women in tech. I hear these stories every single day from women. But it’s also important not to shy away from sharing experiences like Donna’s. These things are happening, and it’s one reason we don’t see the needle moving fast enough.

If the tech industry is sitting on the therapist’s couch asking how we solve our problems, the first step is looking those problems in the face. Once we do that, perhaps the solutions and initiatives we build and deploy will be effective and the needle will start moving.