Happy International Women’s Day, or (as brands have it circled on their calendars) The Day We Get To Show Off Our Feminist Bona Fides In The Form Of An Unconvincingly Earnest Publicity Stunt.
Rather than view the day as an opportunity to, for instance, close the wage gap or hire more women into leadership roles, companies generally view it as an opportunity to roll out a fun new feature dedicated to women. Here are few ways tech firms are doing just that.
Spotify and Smirnoff teamed up to launch a tool, Smirnoff Equalizer, that figures out the percentage of male versus female artists you listen to on the streaming service. The concept is cool: it’s illuminating to see the gender breakdown of artists you listen to in simplified terms. It’s strange, however, to let an alcohol brand access your Spotify data (including your email address and private playlists) to view that information. My results skewed male, so the tool generated an Equalized Playlist for me, which was nice! I also learned that, at 34 percent women, I listen to more female artists than the average user.
Google announced on Wednesday that business owners on Google My Business can now self-identify as “women-led,” which means that these companies will now feature a female symbol when they appear on Google Maps or Search. “We strive to organize the world’s information in a way that is inclusive of all people,” a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Last year, we added an LGBTQ-friendly attribute in time for Pride. This year we’ve added the women-led attribute to empower women-led businesses to succeed online and enable people to find businesses to visit using Google Maps and Search.”
This seems like a great tool to help users easily identify which companies have women in leadership positions. But these are the types of features that the company should arguably be thinking about in the absence of an international holiday.
Microsoft announced a number of initiatives aimed at inspiring “the next generation of female science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) leaders” in a blog post on Wednesday, including mentorship opportunities, workshops, and a STEM resource portal for young girls powered by LinkedIn. It’s important to encourage young women to remain optimistic about pursuing a career in STEM—and that is what Microsoft’s International Women’s Day call to action doubles down on.
But by honing in on the next generation of women in tech and science, Microsoft is quietly signaling that the diversity issue in the industry is a pipeline problem, rather than acknowledging that it is also an inclusion issue in the workplace. It’s a Good Thing for the company to invest time and resources in helping Gen Z make it in STEM, but it’s equally important for the company to invest the same energy into underrepresented employees with their foot already in the door.
Uber, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple all rolled out content of some sort today that highlighted women creators and women within their companies. Acknowledgment is important, especially when recent history has favored the stories of men’s accomplishments before women’s. But while crediting women for their achievements is a crucial part of the movement toward advocating for equality, it’s not enough. They should be seen, but they should also, for instance, be paid the same as their male counterparts.
These celebratory efforts aren’t all inherently bullshit—some stunt a little less hard than others—but it’s hard to take these tech companies seriously when, the rest of the year, they fail so impressively at leveling the playing field for women.