Birmingham-based national women’s group takes on Microsoft, big tech

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With Gov. Kay Ivey at the helm, Alabama has been hard at work luring new businesses to the state like ants to a picnic. It seems like every time you turn around, another big business it’s announcing its arrival or expansion in the Yellowhammer State.

Just this week, Ivey on Thursday announced Facebook will invest $750 million to build a data center in Huntsville, creating 100 high-paying jobs. In April, Google broke ground on a new $600 million data center in Jackson County, Ala. It is expected to add upwards of 100 well-paying jobs with highly technical skill sets, including computer technicians, system administrators, software technicians and engineers.

But one Birmingham-based national women’s is questioning at what price tech jobs, like these, are coming to the state.

Women United — a group that describes itself as a next phase of the #MeToo movement, dedicated to defending all women by shining a light on men who take advantage of women, thinking they can hide or are above the law — is calling out the tech industry and companies like Microsoft for its long history of sexual harassment and discrimination challenges in the workplace in hopes of protecting Alabama women.

“With the growth of tech companies has come a painful reality that women in the field face sexual harassment and discrimination challenges other industries have long since put behind them,” wrote the visionary behind Women United, Catrena Norris Carter in an AL.com op-ed.

The 30-year veteran of both the civil rights and women’s movements in America isn’t accepting the news of new tech jobs without holding the industry accountable.

The numbers don’t lie

Sexual harassment runs rampant in the tech industry. Seventy-eight percent of women founders say they have been harassed or know someone who was, according to First Round Capital’s annual State of Startups survey.

Discrimination is an issue as well.

According to CNN tech, “89% of those making investment decisions at the top 72 firms are male, according to one survey. And in 2016, VCs put $64.9 billion into male-founded startups, compared to $1.5 billion into female-founded startups, according to new data from PitchBook.”

And it’s not just taking place at startups. According to a filing, Women at Microsoft filed 238 complaints with the company’s HR department between 2010 and 2016, including 108 complaints about sexual harassment and 119 about gender discrimination. There were also eight complaints of retaliation and three about pregnancy discrimination, the filing said. The tech giant is currently in the midst of a court battle over these allegations.

Looking for accountability

Women United it looking to protect Alabama women from being added to the shocking statistics of sexual harassment and discrimination.

“As our state–and, more specifically, our big cities, including Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile–looks to attract and grow tech firms, we must demand accountability regarding discrimination and sexual harassment,” Carter continued. “When lawmakers are cutting deals, they must ask those companies what they are doing to foster a safer and healthier environment for women.”

We don’t need that culture in Alabama–no matter how many jobs and tax dollars it brings,” Carter concluded.

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