Gender Balance Hack: Develop Empathy for Women


A person who has gone a number of years not allowing himself to experience his feelings, cannot adequately practice the concept of empathy.

~ Ugo Uche

A world that devalues women is also a world that devalues characteristics associated with women. One of the ways this plays out is the devaluing of emotions. Men are often taught through the cycle of socialization that emotions make them less rational. They’re taught that emotions make them less manly. A natural response to that conditioning is to suppress emotion. This harms men in many ways, one of which is stunting the development of empathy.

Empathy? But the tech world is about making money. What does empathy have to do with making money? It turns out empathy and making money are closely tied in many ways. One of which is psychological safety. Read this article about what Google discovered about highly functioning teams to understand…

What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

To create a gender inclusive tech industry, men must develop their capacity for empathy for women and gender non-binary people. They must develop empathy for people who are having a different experience from them based on the effects of gender.

The first step is to connect with and honor your own feelings. Emotions are an important part of human intelligence. They’re a feedback system designed to draw our attention to important information in our environment. When we feel an emotion we should listen to the message the emotion is trying to share with us. We should then use wisdom to decide what action to take from there. Emotion gets a bad rap when people confuse “acting out” emotions with being emotionally aware.

Connecting emotionally with others requires being vulnerable and telling others about our emotions and sometimes crying together. It’s good to develop comfort with listening to others tell you about their emotions and being present to crying without trying to make it go away.

We are most likely to cry in response to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Crying is a social trigger for empathy – a communication system that signals to others ‘I need your help and support’. When empathy is expressed, trust is built. When trust is built, psychological safety increases and teams perform better.

Tears don’t necessarily interrupt work. They can be an opportunity to bring teams closer together and make them stronger.

So once you get yourself to the place where you can connect with and value your own emotions, you can expand from there.

One method you can use to develop your empathy for women and gender non-binary people is by putting yourself in their shoes. Pay attention to what they may be thinking and feeling. Try to imagine being in their position.

Here’s one example of how you can do that in relation to what women experience in tech. Go to and read the survey results there. Pick one of the scenarios the women described. Imagine being a woman and experiencing those things. Think about how you might feel. The more you know about the research on gender bias, the better you’ll be able to imagine how all the intersecting expressions of gender bias against women pile up, amplifying the experience of any one of the things described at that site.

Here’s another good place to go to read women’s stories and put yourself in their shoes…

Ask a Female Engineer 

The “Ask a Female Engineer” resource is more valuable than many other “stories of women in tech” efforts because the identities of all participants were kept anonymous. Please be careful about asking women you know what their negative experiences in tech have been. It may not be safe for them to tell you, and may leave them feeling vulnerable to negative consequences for sharing those stories.

Want to learn more about how to create a gender balanced tech industry? Visit:

Women in Tech: Making Sense of Security: The Beginning

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You’ve heard people say that coding is the new literacy, right?

There’s a power shift happening rapidly in our society, from those without computer literacy to those with it. The stronger your literacy, the more power you will have (relative to where you’re starting from in the social heiracy).

If women are left behind in this transition it will be a major blow to gender equality.

But computational literacy isn’t just about wealth, status, and equality. It’s also about security. In a rapidly changing landscape, we are about to experience escalating personal impacts from phenomena such as –

  • big data
  • artificial intelligence
  • internet of things

If a woman doesn’t have enough tech literacy to make the right decisions amidst these changes, her security will be compromised. And she will lack the ability to protect people she loves. In this environment, every woman should be intensely interested in the topic of information security.

Information security, sometimes shortened to InfoSec, is the practice of defending information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, inspection, recording or destruction. It is a general term that can be used regardless of the form the data may take (e.g. electronic, physical).


Because of this, I’m starting a new series – “Women in Tech: Making Sense of Security.” I’m going to write about what I’m learning, share insights from research and from topic experts, and share my questions.

You can find this series at: Making Sense of Security

If you’re a man in tech who wants to act as a virtual mentor to me, as part of the gender balance hack of being a good mentor/sponsor for women in tech, please do. Feel free to leave kindly worded clarifications on what I’m unclear about in the comments section. (Female mentors also welcome of course.)

Gender Bias in Tech: The Cycle of Socialization


I got home from my trip to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Saturday and I’m feeling pulled in a thousand exciting directions. It’s like sitting down to a feast and wanting to devour everything all at once. I don’t know where to begin to take action on all the ideas the trip gave me, or where to begin with processing all the new information I took in. I’m telling myself to just pick something specific and focus on it. What I’ve chosen to process at the moment is a concept called, “The Cycle of Socialization” and how it applies to the gender imbalance in the tech industry.

I spoke about during the morning session of the “No Permission, No Apology” conference. In the afternoon I was free to attend other sessions and I chose, “But What Do I Do Instead? A workshop to counteract the bystander dilemma.” The presenters were Libby Mahaffy, Assistant Director for Conflict Resolution
at MIT and Julio Oyola, the Assistant Director of LBGT Services at MIT.

One of the concepts they touched on was “The Cycle of Socialization.” In the article “The Cycle of Socialization”, Bobbie Harro explains that we are born into a specific set of social identities within a social hierarchy that existed before us. We are then socialized into those roles. The author describes this process as pervasive, consistent, circular, self-perpetuating, and usually invisible.

I think this is an important concept for people who are working to hack gender bias in the tech industry.

I think it helps us move beyond blaming ourselves. When one of us is at the level of Gender Balance Antagonist or Gender Balance Bystander, we will move past it more quickly if we understand the forces that have shaped us. We will move past it more quickly when we don’t blame ourselves, or seek to place blame on others, but instead focus on strategies for change.


No one just wakes up one morning and thinks, “I’m going to be gender biased and express that at work today.” There are powerful forces we are pulling against when we work to break out of the cycle.

Gender Balance Hack: Develop Emotional Intelligence


Emotional intelligence is the mother of all skills. In order to implement many of the other gender balance hacks well, emotional intelligence must be mastered first.

The Five Components of Emotional Intelligence (according to Daniel Goleman)

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Internal motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Here’s an explainer video from Harvard Business Review.

We can all train ourselves to have higher emotional intelligence. Improving in one area can help you improve in the others.

Read: Why Emotionally Intelligent People Are More Successful

Want to learn more about how to create a gender balanced tech industry? Visit:


Gender Balance Hack: Learn to Be a Good Mentor/Sponsor


The first and most important thing you should know is that you shouldn’t wait to be asked to be a mentor or sponsor. Develop in your own mind the qualities you would like to have in a mentee and begin thinking of women you know who have those qualities. When you select a mentee, let them know that you see those qualities in them, and the potential you see in them. Offer to become a mentor to them. Describe clearly what that will entail. Don’t be offended if your offer is refused. Keep looking until you find someone who is a good fit.

Concerned that mentoring or sponsoring a woman in tech will set you up for being accused of inappropriate behavior?

Read “Why Men Don’t Mentor Younger Women and How We Can Change That.”

Some key takeaways are…

  • Meet at consistent times and places
  • Meet in public places
  • Avoid romantic settings, or settings that could appear romantic
  • Introduce your significant other
  • Create some structure for how you will use your time together

Concerned about not knowing what to focus on?

Read “Five Questions Every Mentor Must Ask”

Here are the questions:

1. What is it that you really want to be and do?
2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
5. How can I help / where do you need the most help?

Concerned about not having enough work experience to be a mentor? 

Some people assume that years of experience is the most important thing a mentor can offer, but being experienced doesn’t necessarily make you a great mentor. Similarly, lacking experience doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be a great mentor. If you have high emotional intelligence, you know how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, you genuinely care about your mentee, and you’re committed to being consistently invested in her, you will have a valuable impact on her career. Find a woman who’s not far behind you on your career path or a student who’s interested in your field.

Concerned about how busy you are and what’s in it for you? 

If you’re farther along in your career, being a mentor can be a great career advantage for you. It can give you the opportunity to listen, test, validate and absorb. It can sharpen your leadership skills and connect you to a part of the company that you’re not normally connected to.

You can also get your company to organize formal weeklong classes where mentors and mentees are paired for the duration. This is something they did at General Electric and they had good outcomes.

Concerned about offending your mentee with direct feedback?

Actionable feedback is valuable, but studies show that women often receive less of it. Look for opportunities to give your mentee specific input for improving her performance and learning new skills.

Remember that if you’re going to give it, you also have to be open to taking it. If your mentee thinks you’re wrong or are misunderstanding something about her with your feedback, she should feel safe to tell you that. Unconscious bias often clouds the validity of feedback given to women, and you will develop as a Gender Balance Champion if you can hear where you might be mistaken.

Concerned that mentorship won’t be enough to really advance the career of a mentee you believe in? 

Take it to the next level with sponsorship. Women are often over mentored but under sponsored. Sponsorship is what happens when you put your reputation on the line for a mentee. Examples include recommending them for a high status opportunity, publicly praising them in a meaningful way, and looking for opportunities to connect them with people who can help them achieve their goals.

Want to learn more about how to create a gender balanced tech industry? Visit:

Gender Balance Hack: Setting Goals


Do Two Things –

  1. Advocate for your company to set gender balance goals/targets following the key principles of target setting listed below.
  2. Set your own gender balance goals/targets following the key principles of target setting listed below.

Goals are part of a long-term vision detailing how you will reach certain high level objectives. Targets are similar but can be considered smaller steps aligned with the details and deadlines of larger goals. Targets are achievable, time-framed objectives which organisations can set on a regular basis to focus their efforts on achieving improved outcomes.


If you need to build up your business case for gender balance to get others on board with making it a business priority, visit

Project Include has such good information on measuring progress on diversity and inclusion. Also, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency of Australia has an excellent resource for setting targets specifically for gender. The above graphic on “key principles of target setting” is theirs.

If anyone you talk to has concerns about the difference between targets and quotas, read:

Differentiating Diversity Goals From Quotas In The Legal Profession

Points to make when communicating about this issue…

  • to address any business pain point, a strategy is required along with targets to measure progress
  • real change can’t happen without a commitment from the top, because that’s where people take their cues
  • gender balance targets do not work when they are not tied to a strategic vision, and when there is no governance or accountability for achieving them
  • hiring qualified female candidates does not lower the bar, it helps organizations overcome unconscious bias
  • gender balance needs to be on the board and management’s agenda on a daily basis, driven by targets with accountability.

Want to learn more about how to create a gender balanced tech industry? Visit: