It used to be a little more clear. You wake up, shower, and make breakfast in one place. ...
Issue #8
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Pandemic vs. status quo: Who would win?

Talking about the future of work without talking about Diversity & Inclusion — or, in less Human Resources terms, basic gender/race/human equality — would be tone deaf at best (and plain malign at worst). And while a 30-something straight white male might not exactly be the voice of diversity in 2020, I don’t claim to have all the answers either. Some questions, some research, some speculation, some attempted answers, is all. Now, with that (gentle disarming) out of the way — let’s go some 80 years back and recall another major humanitarian crisis, and the effects it had on society that we’re still very much feeling today.
🔮 Back to the future

How WWII brought women back to work

The reason we’re turning to that dark chapter of history is that despite how obviously terrible of a time it was, a side effect of the atrocities was that women were brought into the workforce. And brought back into the workforce, for that matter, having having been pushed out some 150 years prior. (Yes, I didn’t know either.) But for, like, the entire history of mankind men and women both worked: The idea of a man being “the breadwinner” (sorry) is shockingly young, less than 200 years old. Industrial revolution. Heavy machinery. Man strong, good. Woman weak, bad. Children weak, also bad. And so legislation was introduced — all with good intentions, to prevent injuries and overworking — which effectively left women with only household duties to attend to, and for the generations that followed that became the status quo.


What happens now?

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And so, does it make any sense at all to think that coronavirus will introduce some deep structural changes to the workplace? Not just physically, that is, but on a deeper level of its very fabric?

The past five-ish years saw enormous progress, if not a giant leap, in terms of levelling out the imbalance in tech. Now, the epidemic — will it change things for the better or rather the opposite for non-males and non-whites?

The optimistic side of the argument goes like this. First, the employers now have access to a much larger pool of potential workers, and so it’s much easier to pursue the gender/race quotas than before (you are not limited by San Francisco citizens anymore — hire anyone from the country, and beyond). Second, traditionally underrepresented groups who might have been reluctant to work full-time due to potential psychological/mental stress of sharing physical space can now do so, with all negative consequences (somewhat) mitigated by remote. Third, the nature of remote work puts more emphasis on the actual output: Who did what and how much, rather than whose voice in the room is the loudest in the room (see Congratulations, Your Joke Will Be Featured in the Next Issue of Repeated Louder By a Man) — helping everyone recognize and see how hard members of underrepresented groups actually work.

Now for the reality check. If history has anything to teach us, then the odds aren't in our favor. After the war, men returned to their jobs — after all, women taking their places was seen by everyone as a temporary measure. And so by 1951 the number of working women dropped almost to pre-war level; also, all the way up until 1964 (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964) married U.S. women were still barred from many jobs — that was largely the aftermath of the Great Depression, whereby Frances Perkins (ironically, Frances with an e), the Secretary of Labor in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet, put the blame for the bad economy on married working women, and pushed for discriminating laws. More numbers: in the immediate post-war years, working women’s wages were roughly 40% lower then men’s — for example, the median annual wage for female workers in 1950 was $1,579, as compared with $2,702 for men, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Where does that bring us? Well, per Harvard Business Review: Companies who are committed to really making a change should preemptively do even more to balance the inequality than they did before [the pandemic], not waiting for the government regulators to step in. For a hopeful example and some inspiration, we can turn to Iceland, the #1 ranking country in terms of gender equality.

“What is the secret to Iceland’s success? What are the lessons learned? In short, it is that gender equality does not come about of its own accord. It requires the collective action and solidarity of women human rights defenders, political will, and tools such as legislation, gender budgeting and quotas,” per World Economic Forum.

It’s a lesson tech can learn from. While it’s true that tech has made progress in recent years, many are worried COVID-19 may be forcing diversity efforts on the backburner. A truly diverse and inclusive workforce cannot be built in a bubble. No company is an island (no pun intended).

Hopefully, in 50 years people will read about today’s inequalities with the same shock as ourselves — when we read about those of last century.

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Come work with us, not for us

We practice what we preach. Pitch is dedicated to creating an inclusive and diverse working environment for all of our employees. We value flat hierarchies, clear communication, and full ownership and responsibility. But it’s a good place to work for many other reasons, too.

Read about our work ethics & see open positions

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