The tech industry has had a discrimination problem for many years, one that Silicon Valley claims to be addressing…still.
People of color, women, and the LGBTQ community have reported not feeling very welcome in terms of hiring, promotions to management level positions, and credit for innovation. In fact, many have reported open hostility over the years, despite a better understanding of acceptance and equality from society as a whole.
Microsoft, no stranger to reports from employees about the conditions in the workplace, has launched a new initiative in an effort to bring more diversity to its talent pool: returnship. These “returns” (as opposed to “interns”) are women looking to return to the workforce after a period of time off, for whatever reason, and the tech industry is fostering this return to the workforce.
On paper, it’s ideal. Women who’ve taken time off to care for their families not only understand what it means to put someone else’s needs ahead of their own, they’re often fiercely dedicated to seeing the humanity behind their work. Everything is driven by a purpose that puts people first rather than simply profit or achievement.
There’s still a long way to go…
Unfortunately, the very nature of zooming in on older women is, in itself, somewhat discriminatory. Where are the initiatives for women who didn’t have the luxury of being married to spouses who are wealthy enough to afford them the chance to raise a family? Where are the initiatives for women who didn’t feel the need to reproduce in order to show their worth and ability to multi-task? More importantly, given the bias in favor of hiring younger males in tech, where are the programs aimed at hiring or retaining older men who’ve still got a lot to contribute?
Rather than self-congratulatory grandstanding about hiring middle-aged women who haven’t worked in a few years, companies would do well to break down the barriers that prevent people of any demographic from succeeding in their fields. To highlight how ineffective programs like this may be, the Microsoft returnship hires will be sent to work on two different programs in Vancouver. It’s an ideal job if there’s no one in your life unwilling to uproot and move.