Equity in the workplace has been a growing issue for most fields, and tech is no exception. As the tech industry continues to boom, onlookers wonder why the majority of startups are dominated by men.
To Alysia Reiner, the tech industry isn’t so different from Wall Street when it comes to an unequal representation of women in the workplace. Reiner, best known for her roles on Orange Is The New Black and Better Things, produced a film titled Equity that explored the untold stories of women in Wall Street.
During her time working with these women, Reiner also gained some exposure to the tech world and realized that tech and Wall Street aren’t so different.
“I met so many women in the tech world who experienced really similar things that we talked about on Equity,” she told me during our interview at Collision conference in New Orleans.
After telling the stories of women in Wall Street, Reiner is now turning her gaze to tech. She wouldn’t reveal too much, but she told me that she’s working on a new project that focuses on the stories of these women. “It’s like Silicon Valley meets Sex In The City,” she mused.
But all joking aside, Reiner is passionate about making sure women gain the same representation in all fields, whether it be Wall Street, the entertainment industry or tech.
Women In Tech
Reiner’s experience in the tech world comes more as a user than an investor or entrepreneur. But that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the power of tech.
“The most exciting technology is about activism,” she told me. This has been a growing trend in tech world - apps and services that help you donate to causes, contact senators and empower others. Her passion for activism can be traced back to her Hollywood experience.
Reiner has plenty of Hollywood experience, an industry that she has already noticed a fair amount of inequity. While there are plenty of actresses getting roles, Reiner also points to producers and directors - two fields which are predominantly male.
“Hollywood is 8% women. How do we fix that gender parity?” she asked. Well, if it’s anything like the tech industry, the answer could just be support.
When I asked her the best way to support women in the tech industry, her answer was simple. If you’re an investor, you should make a conscious effort to fund women-based startups at an equal rate of male-based startups.
But for many people in the tech world, this amount of investment isn’t financially feasible. Fortunately, Reiner had an answer for that as well: mentorship.
She pointed out that not only is mentorship free, but both men and women can take promising women in tech and take them under their wing.
This type of mentorship enables women to do more, and it gives them a better chance of eventually finding that funding that they need to build their startup.
Understand Your Value
My main takeaway from our conversation was to understand your value. Reiner has a unique approach to tech thanks in part to her time in Hollywood. To understand your value, you need to have a better awareness of yourself and what you do.
“Know your own weaknesses,” Reiner advised. That advice can be applied to just about any field, tech included. But the point she was trying to make was that you have to know yourself before you can take action and make a difference.
This same idea fits into businesses. If your business has a weakness, then you’ll do your best to understand the weakness and either improve it or build a model that avoids needing to address your weakness.
Currently, a weakness in the tech world is gender parity. Women have promising ideas, but many of them don’t get the representation they deserve because the field is male dominated.
Women certainly have value in tech, but our predisposition as an industry tends to place more value on male entrepreneurs. This is because tech was largely dominated by men in its early stages, and now the field is playing catch-up to try and increase the representation of women.
It’s time to be more aware of the decisions we make as entrepreneurs, investors and consumers. Who is behind the next big app, and are they working to make the tech world an equally represented space?
Getting more women actively involved in the tech world isn’t going to happen overnight, but being aware of this weakness is the first step to fixing the problem.