In the second essay of Women & Power, Mary Beard puts forward the idea that in order to treat women fairly in the workplace (and elsewhere), our priority shouldn’t be to figure out how women can shoulder their way forward and achieve success in the same way as your stereotypical man should.
Instead, we should work on reshaping our companies, organisations, and societies to be a place where a plurality of different personalities, strengths, and perspectives can flourish.
We have to be more reflective about what power is, what it is for, and how it is measured. To put it another way, if women are not perceived to be fully within the structures of power, surely it is power that we need to redefine rather than women?”
Not only does this seem to give a fairer shake to women and other under-represented groups, it also seems key to ensure healthy organisations which are holistically good. Where goodness isn’t defined by growth, top-line, or frothiness of IPO.
The Vulnerable World Hypothesis by Nick Bostrom talks about so-called black ball ideas – new technologies which we arrive at quite unexpectedly, and that have a wholy catastrophic impact on our society. So far, as a species we have managed to avoid this but only through blind luck.
Connecting these two thoughts: in some cases it seems that organisations pursue diversity in order to check a box, present themselves a certain way, and have a robust defence against any criticism. We must see it differently, especially in the tech world which is a) the probable source of any upcoming black ball and b) infamously unbalanced in terms of representation.
Yes, we should remove any and all barriers frustrating women and BAME people from having access to careers in tech if that’s their calling. But we also need to elevate contemplative and ethical roles within the tech industry to have an equal footing with software engineers and futurists.
Technology policy should not unquestioningly assume that all technological progress is beneficial, or that complete scientific openness is always best, or that the world has the capacity to manage any potential downside of a technology after it is invented.
Technology is too powerful to be left solely in the hands of technologists.
We must aggrandise these non-technical thinkers not just so that we can claim to be equitable, but because otherwise the masculine caricature of a growth-obsessed Silicon Valley monoculture will continue to dominate as we hurtle towards plucking a black ball out of the bag, and calling it progress.