Women’s Equality Day and the call to action for our digital future

Women’s Equality Day and the call to action for our digital future

Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA

Last week, I wrote about my recent jury duty experience and the importance of civic engagement. Today, we’re reminded of the moment that changed how women could engage as American citizens with the right to vote, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it took to reach this milestone and what it meant for our nation.


A century ago, the 19th Amendment brought half of the U.S. population into the electoral process. This was only a half-century after the 15th Amendment eliminated race as a factor in the voting booth.


It then struck me when reading a quote by Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar on women’s suffrage that we’re now at another important turning point.


As Amar described in a 2005 article, when 10 million women became voters, this “represented the single biggest democratizing event in American history.”


Today, the powerful technology around us is its own democratizing force. Its unprecedented access – right at our fingertips, even – has helped level the playing field for who can engage and participate. High schoolers and PhDs alike can access and use the digital tools affecting all aspects of our society to shape our future.


And yet even with the democratization of technology, inequalities still persist, like the severe underrepresentation of women in tech fields. Women hold only about a quarter of computing jobs. Studies also have predicted that women are more likely to see their jobs change because of technology.


So I’m looking back at the early women’s rights campaigns with a renewed appreciation for their persistence and vision. It took decades and an assortment of outreach tactics to win the vote. There were petitions, pageants and parades focused on earning public support and creating a steady drumbeat for change.


That attitude is still needed in today’s mission and call to action as we work toward greater diversity and inclusion in our digital transformation. And companies will need to lead. It’ll take persistence and a willingness to cast a wide net in our talent recruitment and outreach, from our educational partnerships to our professional opportunities for current employees.


I often say that we need to grow the tent to build a 21st-century workforce. But it’s about more than closing the skills gap. It’s about making sure that the technology we’re developing truly reflects and is representative of the society it’s meant to serve.


Like I saw during jury duty, we each own the system separately and collectively. And we arrive at a stronger outcome when each voice can contribute. That applies to the judicial system, the political system and the digital future we’re working as a society to build.