How to Find and Retain Women in Tech
In early 2011, the number of women in tech roles in Silicon Valley was 7%. Fast-forward to now, and that number hovers around 14% – which is not bad, but there’s still a long way to go. Even though the modern workplace landscape is rapidly evolving, the tech industry remains a lonely place for women – and it gets lonelier as they progress into leadership roles.
Figures from Accenture and Girls Who Code’s report Women in Tech suggest that the tech industry is sluggishly inching to balance the gender equilibrium – only hold 24% of tech-related roles in the US. Without intervention, this number will likely decline to 22% by 2025.
Rethinking Women in Tech
Inclusion in a workplace happens every day – from onboarding to the last working day. Inclusion is achieved when an employee receives the same respect, belongingness, connection, and community support as their peers of the opposite gender. An inclusive organization is where employees are empowered to bring their “authentic selves” to work.
Women, especially those from other fields, can benefit from a culture that encourages upskilling and reskilling them into tech roles. They bring attitudes and experiences that can transform the “brogrammer” cultures. They also come in with unique insights from their previous fields that can serve the organization well.
Women thrive where they feel safe and empowered to unleash their full potential. The Women in Tech report found that women in safe and encouraging workplaces tend to prosper more than women in discriminating work environments. It’s an unconventional but promising path. However, it demands a deliberate effort from the employer, which includes:
- Open-minded hiring process
- Training opportunities to upskill them
- An open culture that demonstrates careers can continue even after children (for both men and women)
How to bring more women into technology? – And support them in their journey.
More and more women need to be drawn into tech roles to create a diverse talent pool for organizations to choose from. Several forward-thinking organizations are trying to balance gender equilibrium by eliminating traditional practices such as removing gender bias from CVs and job descriptions. These atomic changes can be effective in the long run, but what more should be done to attract women into tech? Let’s explore.
Create systems that foster belonging
According to a report by TrustRadius in 2020, bro culture remains rife in tech companies, and nearly 72% of women have reported working at a company where bro culture is pervasive. Such a male-dominated environment manifests an uncomfortable work environment and harassment and assault. For such reasons, women might find it challenging to cultivate a sense of belonging in their workplace – the feeling of being empowered to bring their authentic selves to work each day. To mitigate this, organizations can create systems to create a sense of belongingness for women in tech roles:
- Survey employees to grasp their perception of belonging and address gaps in organizational functions.
- Establish demographic-specific employee resource groups where women can find common ground and aid in the organization’s internal and external diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
- Include more women in the talent acquisition team so that new female hires and prospective employees instantly feel connected to the organization.
- Conduct meaningful group conversations where co-workers can openly share their experiences.
Highlight learning opportunities
According to LinkedIn’s 5th annual Workplace Learning Report, demand for workplace learning and development surged exponentially during Covid-19. Organizations that want to attract women in tech must invest in formal and informal learning and training opportunities – which could include conference stipends, tuition reimbursement, and on-site learning, and proactively promote them during hiring.
Equal access for all
When women look for tech roles, they prioritize opportunities like having the same access to promotions, leadership roles, and development opportunities as their male peers. It is a crucial metric for happiness at work for most women techies around the globe. Organizations need to demonstrate equal access by authentically —
- being transparent about the representation of women at various levels.
- talking about their progression goals and how they support structures like mentorship and sponsorship for equal growth of women.
- tracking the pace of promotions by gender in order to address biases and gaps early one.
Furthermore, women want to see other women doing well in the organization. Organizations should make sure that new talent hears directly from their women employees and leaders.
5 ways to retain women in tech
By now, it’s evident that women’s contribution to the tech industry is significant. So, what can we do to retain female employees in tech? Here are five foundational principles that support retention:
- Mitigate gender discrimination within the workplace
An organization’s ability to retain its high performers primarily hinges on its culture. A good foundation for this could be ensuring that there is no gender discrimination within the workplace – and employees stand against any action that demonstrates discrimination (of any kind). Women want to be a part of an organization that recognizes and values their talent and worth. Defying a culture of gender discrimination requires transparency and communication at every stage of the employee roadmap.
- Motivate with more
People derive happiness at work by more than just their income, and those with high intrinsic motivation perform much better than those offered external rewards. Many women stay in tech roles because of a sense of purpose, so they look for jobs where they find their work is meaningful and that they’re a part of a culture that sees value in them.
- Create opportunities for growth
One of the most significant driving forces behind retention is the opportunity for growth. Women want to know that there is a clear career trajectory for them in the organization and room for them to upskill and advance further. After all, people are driven by an intrinsic urge to polish their craft and bring their best selves to work.
- Establish flexible work schedules
Many women end up leaving their tech jobs before the age of 35. A host of reasons apply here – from starting a family to having children and everything in between. To retain high-performing women tech employees, having flexible work options can be a crucial leveler here. BCG Consulting found that women at companies with no flexible work policies are more likely to seek other employment opportunities.
- Promote women to leadership roles and provide equal pay
The final principle of retaining women in tech is prioritizing promoting women to leadership roles. Having women in leadership roles shows new female hires that there is a clear career growth for women in the organization and that it isn’t restricted to only male colleagues. Perform a baseline analysis to see whether women are significantly represented in your organization. If not, what steps can you take to set goals to address the gap?
Attracting and retaining women in tech is a positive step towards diversity and successful employee growth. Tech leaders should proactively reduce the gender gap within the organization. Diversity is a shared value, so the entire organization should share the challenge of bringing more women into tech – and retaining them there.