In our last blog, we discussed International Women’s Day and the state of work for women. For Tech women, in particular, the numbers and impact are starker. Before COVID, women were about 47% of the workforce. Women in Tech are only 26% of the workforce and that number is drastically lower for African-American women (3%), Asian women (6%), and Latinx women (2%). Due to COVID, one in four women is now contemplating leaving the workforce altogether. Now, more than ever, we need to support women in technology. 

We promised some thoughts on how to make impactful, systemic change in your workplace. Making these changes to keep women equally represented in the workforce is crucial to the health of our economy and a more collaborative environment. McKinsey finds “the information-technology, government, and healthcare industries have the potential to exceed pre-pandemic employment as early as the end of 2021. While job growth in those industries is unlikely to offset the economy’s net job losses, these sectors could still serve as early targets for training and credentialing efforts.” Since a disproportionate number of jobs lost come from women, minorities, younger workers, undereducated and lower-wage positions there is a huge potential to shift here.

What can you do as a leader?

Supporting women in technology can happen in a number of ways, first and foremost being helping your women leaders grow. Courses like ACE – Leadership by Influence will help the women in your organization develop authentic leadership, strong collaboration, and build empowerment within a peer group to be supported in advancing their skills, network and careers. 

What can companies do?

Many women don’t consider a career in tech because they’re not seeing them as an option. While 33% of men have someone suggest tech, only 16% of women have the same experience. If you have roles available in the Tech sector, explain roles outside of programming to show the breadth and depth of work available in Tech. Make a plan to attract women and hire top talent. Make a point to support women in technology and forge this into your organization’s culture. Thinking of it as a virtuous cycle, the more women seen in tech, the more women explore it as an option.

Fix the broken rung. It’s been said that women will break the glass ceiling if all of the rungs of the career ladder are intact. Look at your hiring practices at the entry-level to see the rate of hiring men vs. women. Then, when those entry-level employees are up for their first promotion is everyone promoted equally. McKinsey & Co reports that out of 100 entry-level men promoted, only 72 women are chosen for similar positions. It happens so early on in their careers that performance or experience doesn’t explain this away. 

Look for quality candidates for hiring, promotions, and board seats. This may take more time than hiring the first great candidate that comes along but if women don’t know to look for you the process might need to be more creative. The time you put into searching for and promoting top talent in minority and female categories will fix that broken rung (or three) and give you a leg up on competitors by having an employee base that can see your business from many more angles. 

Finally, hire based on potential with traits like curiosity, engagement, drive, insight, and passion rather than current competencies and backgrounds. Think about it, if women aren’t hired for their prior experience they won’t be gaining it anytime soon. Yet another way to fix that broken rung. 

How can you support women of color?

Learn, and teach your leaders, about unconscious bias. This isn’t a one-off training. It needs to be embedded in every step of the hiring process and also formal programs woven into the culture of your company. Anti-bias training has been shown to activate biases. Instead of having a day where everyone gathers to learn how to not see the elephant in room, which leads to only seeing the elephant, create a mentoring program, start a diversity task force that has teeth, provide skill and management training at multiple levels, and hire the right people from the beginning. Be clear and consistent in your messaging of what you value and how your culture needs to operate based on that. 

What can women do?

Breathe. Seriously, you need to give yourself some grace. Acknowledge what you’re experiencing and know that no one is perfect or can do everything. Bryan Dyson, a former CEO of Coca-Cola, gave a famous speech in 1996 that is as true today as it was almost 20 years ago, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends, and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” Today, a better word might be flexibility because we know that balance is the thing we strive for and that it looks different every day.

Connect with other women (LinkedIn is a great place to join groups), sign up for a mentor, get to know female role models (check out our next blog post all about Rockstar women in tech!), and invest in your career. International Women’s Day is a great time to reflect on where you can grow and what you’ve learned along the way. Maybe your company has leadership courses or coaching opportunities. You can attend an industry event to learn and network. Go online and find YouTube videos on topics you are inspired by or courses that can help you grow. Find someone whose work you admire and go say hi.

How can you share knowledge with your company about IWD?