When you ask folks “Why aren’t there more women working at this tech company?” they point to a pipeline problem: not enough qualified women are applying.
When you ask folks, “Why aren’t more women applying for jobs at X company?” they point to a pipeline problem: not enough women are studying technology in college.
When you ask folks, “Why aren’t more women studying technology in college?” they point to a pipeline problem: not enough teenage women are interested in technology in high school.
When you ask folks, “Why aren’t more women interested in technology in high school?” they point to a pipeline problem: girls lose interest in science and technology middle school.
The problem with pipelines is that they are opaque and that opacity creates segmentation. The problem with segments is that they have specific owners who aren’t coordinating with owners of other segments. For example, it’s hard for the high school guidance counselor to track their former student once they go to college. Yes, the counselor helps the student get into college, but whose job is it to help that student succeed once they are there? And what useful information might the guidance counselor be able to give and receive if s/he were communicating with the owners of segments up and downstream?
An alternative to a pipeline is a pathway. Pathways are open, transparent, and make it easier for all involved to view the entire system. They make it easier for people along it to identify problems in the system and coordinate with each other to fix them. They make it easier for the people along it to see how the pathway and the people on it are succeeding and collectively celebrate that success. This is working.
What other systems–social, economic, industrial, environmental–could benefit from a “pipelines to pathways” transition?