Female MBA students are undeterred by Silicon Valley’s sexism

Wednesday 11th October 2017 05:53 EDT

Sexism in the tech world is nothing new. This year, all the gender-based harassment and bias in the Silicon Valley came to light. Several cases drew the limelight, most of them cringe-worthy. Women have pointed their fingers at firms like Uber for fostering environments where sexual harassment and discrimination are common visitors. Google has been blamed of wage disparity, a case which has the Department of Labour sniffing around. Now, approximately 90 former employees are suing over similar discrepancies.

Women have for years witnessed, endured, and fought sexism in Silicon Valley. Stanford Business School's courses by Fern Mandelbaum on diversity and the “power of inclusion” have become so popular, she had to add a third this year. Her latest course, 'Equity by Design: Building Diverse and Inclusive Organisations' show students how to spot and deal with unconscious bias, hire candidates from diverse backgrounds and design systems to support equality at work. Her MBA students include women who want to work in technology. Given the rising number of cases, these students, instead of being discouraged, sense an opportunity to fix Silicon Valley's issues with the fairer sex.

Harvard Business School student and co-president of the school's tech club, the largest student group on campus, Amrita Mainthia remains unfazed. “Women are interested in entering this industry, to contribute to the progress that we all know can be done,” she said. She just completed an internship at a small venture capital start-up that invests in media tech companies. Anne Kuriakose, senior vice-president at MIT Sloan's technology club, said, “There is this overarching desire to want to be the ones driving change and innovation. Now, more than ever, it's important for women to go into tech.”

Even with all the outward enthusiasm, female MBA students are cautious about what companies they target. Prof Mandelbaum said female students are wary of companies with poor records on gender equality. “An inclusive culture is one that respects, values and hears their employees, that thinks about their career progression, that has managers who help their people be successful. Who wouldn't want to be at a place like that?”

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