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During a 2013 speech to the United Nations (UN), then-16-year-old Pakistani activist and UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai said, “I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard… We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” 

When Yousafzai said, “half of us,” she referred to women, who make up half of the global population yet face disproportionate barriers to opportunities and resources around the world. Today, on International Women’s Day, I’d like to call attention to the opportunity all Red Hat associates, customers, partners and peers have to share our support for gender equity and diversity. 

Taking an intersectional approach to a systemic problem

In the technology industry, it’s no secret that women are underrepresented and encounter gender-specific challenges in the workplace. As a differently-abled Asian woman with brown skin and a non-Christian name, I’ve experienced and witnessed inequity in many forms since childhood and throughout my corporate career. 

My identity, like that of many Red Hatters, crosses many different dimensions. This is referred to as intersectionality, and it’s an important consideration when we’re talking about embracing equity for women in the workplace. We also need to acknowledge how these challenges overlap with other kinds of bias, discrimination and injustice.   

Organizations like Red Hat are poised to make the tech industry better in this regard—and transformation always starts from within. Examining our corporate systems from an intersectional perspective can help us build holistic solutions that are inclusive for everyone, not just a select group. By designing programs and processes that support the most marginalized person, we can create a culture of inclusive collaboration where people of different identities, perspectives, and backgrounds feel comfortable being their authentic selves. 

This culture of inclusive collaboration is necessary for any company (but especially tech companies) to innovate and adapt at the pace business demands. It’s one of the key drivers of Red Hat’s current diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy, and it will continue to inform the business decisions we make in the future.

What embracing equity means in practice

My own experiences with inequity gave me, like many others who encounter adversity, a rare resilience that inspires me to address these injustices—in fact, I’ve dedicated my career to it. What’s exciting for me is that organizations like Red Hat have similarly dedicated resources to driving equity for those who identify as women in the following ways:

  • Committing to equal pay, an effort which has so far included salary adjustments, increased access to data to support equitable pay decisions, training to ensure managers have a solid understanding of general pay equity practices, and a roadmap to further pay transparency.  
  • Launching people programs including:
    • A sponsorship program geared toward bolstering visibility, advocacy, and networks for high-potential diverse associates.
    • An internal gigs program designed to provide equitable opportunities for skill development and career mobility beyond permanent job moves.
    • Mentoring and career coaching programs aimed at building meaningful connections and helping associates assess and grow their passions, talents, and skills.
  • Providing benefits that support women who are parents, like:
    • Paid parental leave
    • Access to backup care for children and elders, as well as summer camp reimbursement
    • Flexible working

Red Hat’s commitment underscores individual Red Hatters’ devotion to this cause. Our Women’s Leadership Community—one of our voluntary, associate-led ​​employee resource groups— has committed to advancing the position of women at work and in the world for close to a decade. Now, with a formalized DEI leader and organization, we’re able to amplify those efforts going forward.

The road ahead

Whether we’re talking about equity on the basis of gender, race, sex, religion or ability, the work of DEI is never finished. We can’t just be in the business of updating old systems—we have to build new ones. That kind of transformation doesn’t occur overnight. It happens one conversation at a time, one process at a time, one team at a time.

As we continue this work, the advice I offer to Red Hatters and to our industry peers when it comes to embracing equity is to be curious. Humble curiosity about why things are the way they are helps us identify opportunities and motivates us to change the elements that don’t align with our values. When we’re all curious together, we can realize our limitless potential. 

About the author

Shuchi Sharma is Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Red Hat. Sharma has a breadth of global business management experience, visionary leadership skills, and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expertise. She has more than 17 years of experience advancing women and underrepresented minorities within the technology and health care industries.

Prior to joining Red Hat, Sharma served as Global Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at SAP Earlier in her tenure with SAP, she led the company’s business consulting practice across a large portion of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), built a global marketing function for business consulting, and led the strategic sales advisory business for SAP’s HR cloud software business in North America. Previously, she led Europe-based consulting practices for SAS. Sharma started her career in management consulting at Ernst & Young LLP, based in Washington, DC.

Sharma was named one of the Financial Times’ 50 Future Leaders, and Diversity MBA Journal’s Top 100 Executive Leaders and Top 100 Women of Influence. She also serves on the boards of the Frederick Health Medical System and the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women.

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