Supporting women in technology fields goes beyond simply balancing the numbers. Historically, the tech sector has been white, young and male, and only conscious effort will change the imbalance. The good news is that efforts to close gender gaps in the tech industry yield rewards in the form of happier employees, higher profits, and recognition as a company making a difference. Read on to find out how you can support women in technology, whatever your company role or gender.
Inspire future women in technology
When you support women in technology, you are also supporting the future of the industry. Since 1993, the number of women in the STEM fields of science, engineering, and mathematics has been on the rise. However, in technology fields specifically, female participation has decreased.
A few shocking stats:
- In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%. This infographic shows staggering statistics.
- Women hold fewer than than 20% of US tech jobs (and the number is going down!).
- A survey shows that girls show an interest in pursuing careers in STEM fields as young as 11 years old but many get discouraged and lose interest before age 15.
- There are only five female CEOs of technology companies in the Fortune 500.
- Merely 5% of startup founders are women and only 11% of decision-makers in venture capital groups are women.
It’s clear that there need to be more initiatives to get young girls interested in technology jobs, and keep them interested. Young women in technology fields face a variety of obstacles:
- Encountering stereotypes and biases that math is for boys and the arts are for girls.
- A lack of mentorship and little knowledge of career paths available to them.
- The belief that their intelligence is limited to a fixed amount, rather than being unlimited.
In fact, the American Association of University Women presents eight key research findings that point to environmental and social barriers that block women’s progress in STEM. The only way to change conceptions like these is to show women in STEM careers as the norm, rather than the exception:
- Be aware of your own biases and change the way you talk about women in STEM.
- Offer science and technology camps for girls to teach them how encountering challenging problems is in the nature of scientific work and that they have the ability to learn.
- Encourage your female employees to mentor girls who show interest in tech careers and introduce career paths to them.
By showcasing and highlighting the contributions and successes made by women at your tech company, you will be part of the sea of change to inspire and encourage the next generation of women in technology careers.
Supporting women in technology can increase profits
A report by Morgan Stanley shows a well-documented increase in financial returns for companies with high gender diversity. Those companies have delivered increased returns with lower volatility compared with their low diversity peers, and have outperformed on average in the past five years. The top fifth of selected companies that consistently rank gender diversity among their priorities, with data to back it up, outperformed those that did not. What does all that mean? Getting more women into the tech workforce yields higher profits, and there’s plenty of data to prove it.
Jessica Alsford, head of the Global Sustainability Research Team at Morgan Stanley, discusses the link between company financial performance and gender diversity. “Gender diversity can improve team decision-making and improve innovation capabilities for development of new products or services,” says Alsford. “It can also create alignment with diverse customer bases and, thus, open up untapped business opportunities.” There is an emerging body of academic and qualitative research that links inclusive work environments with increased returns.
Want an even more convincing financial argument about supporting women in technology? Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary prefers women founders, saying “They make me more money. Now this isn’t some kind of academic research, this is real data. This is real money coming back to me.” He links a number of traits often found in women that lead to business success, including time management, goal-setting and taking critiques well. “To succeed, executives need to listen to everyone. That’s something women excel at, especially with critical feedback.”
How your company can support women in technology
During the recruitment process:
Take the time to really analyze your job descriptions. Research shows that men will apply for jobs where they meet 60% of the requirements while women are more reluctant to apply unless they meet 100% of the qualifications. Ensure that only the minimum requirements for the job are stated as such, and include other desired attributes separately.
Actively source female candidates for open positions. Female-focused associations, career initiatives, leadership conferences, and meetup events are great places to discuss your recruitment and find qualified talent.
Work with vendors who value diversity:
Partner with companies who bring not only their expertise but also their diversity to your outsourced services. By choosing to work with other companies who value women in technology, your own diversity initiatives can grow. Not only does your choice support other female-focused tech businesses, but you will also gain the value of other diverse perspectives.
Hiring companies who support women in technology will maximize your diversity efforts and you will be able to make even more of a difference in improving the lives of women. At AnnieCannons, our corporate social responsibility plan centers around lifting survivors of human trafficking out of their situations and teaching them how to be amazing programmers. Hiring us for web development services allows us to continue to grow our program and get more women working in the tech industry.
Show off women in leadership roles:
Women are more likely to accept a new job if the company has female leaders. If your leadership team is gender-balanced, include that in promotional materials around your recruitment efforts. Increase the visibility of your female employees with published content on your company website and social media channels. Encourage them to publish blog posts and articles and invite them to be part of the recruitment process. Seeing other women successful in your company will increase your recruitment power.
Promote work/life balance:
It’s especially important to recognize how working parents can thrive in STEM fields, often because of the experience of parenthood, not at the expense of it. Busy parents who balance their home lives with a career are experienced at long-term planning, quickly putting out fires, listening to others, and keeping track of multiple time tables. They can set realistic goals (and meet them!) which encourages others in the workplace.
Those performance benefits aren’t limited to parents, either. Many people without children have active households or partners to support and are equally adept at efficient time management. They can multitask like no other, because they know what’s most important and what will be the best value of their time. This translates into work groups where everyone’s time is valued, leading to improved performance and morale.
There are several aspects of offering a work/life balance that the tech industry could focus on to appeal to more women. Schedule flexibility and opportunities to work from home are valued by many busy women. Invest in families by making parental leave mandatory and having it last longer than average. Showcase the company’s family-friendly policies on your recruitment website and in job descriptions. And it should go without saying that you will have closed the gender pay gap. Even if you don’t publish salaries, including it in your diversity statement and publishing an annual report will demonstrate that you are doing something about the issue.
Everyone can support women in technology
Susan McDonald of StackPath addresses the need for everyone to get behind supporting women in technology, regardless of gender. When their VP of Community Josh Krammes was selected as a finalist for the Women in IT Awards Silicon Valley Advocate of the Year, her initial reaction was raised eyebrows. However, she recognized how the nomination “perfectly demonstrates the ethos of our ecosystems program: we don’t succeed unless ALL are given the opportunity to succeed.”
At AnnieCannons, our focus is on closing the gender gap in tech and STEM fields. We deliver tech education to the underserved and underrepresented and provide jobs for survivors of human trafficking and gender-based violence. Whether you hire our developers on a web project, partner with us as a volunteer, or donate financially to our cause, your support of AnnieCannons goes directly to supporting women in technology. How is your company showcasing women in tech? We’d love to hear from you!