For months, we’ve been inundated with a fanfare of cautionary headlines proclaiming the tech industry is hemorrhaging employees left and right. What most outlets aren’t reporting is the damaging reality that there’s a marginalized population being disproportionately impacted by said layoffs — women.
Beyond raising a red flag in response to women leaving the tech industry — whether by force or by choice — this is an urgent call to action for organizations and their associated communities to make the tech industry a safe and prosperous home for all women. So, what can the industry do as a whole to retain more women in tech so they stand a chance at making it beyond entry- and mid-level roles?
3 Steps to Foster Opportunities for Women in Tech
- Reach beyond mentorship.
- Recruit intentionally.
- Evolve your programs.
Shrinking Numbers of Women in Tech
As of 2019, women only made up 27 percent of the STEM workforce, largely due to a lack of opportunity, support, and equitable treatment. As a result, they’re leaving the industry at alarming rates. More than 11 percent of women in tech left the field in the last year alone.
DEI departments have fallen victim to these mass layoffs. DEI programs are evaporating from the workplace, along with their leaders. As companies make challenging decisions and slash so-called expendable staff, their vision is focused only on the survival of the business. In this mindset, DEI efforts are more often than not on the chopping block. Worse, women tend to play a larger role in DEI initiatives, exacerbating the problem.
This has to change. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not charity efforts; these are essentials for a business to succeed. We aren’t just talking about building a more equitable world, or doing the “right thing.” Research proves this is smart business. Diverse teams are more productive, more innovative, more thoughtful, and ultimately more profitable. That’s because welcoming heterogeneous perspectives into the workplace enhances decision-making and eliminates biases.
Reach Beyond Mentorship
Women need to have a diverse roster of mentors throughout the various phases of their careers, but sponsorship within a given organization is critical. This means individuals at the company must use their privilege and social capital to help advance and promote women along with trans and nonbinary folks and people of color. These mentors will go the extra mile to ensure a woman is considered for any new opportunity.
Professionals involved in all stages of recruitment and hiring must be in constant collaboration, intentionally working to give opportunities to minorities and women in tech. Recruiters are the first point of contact for anyone entering the organization. Due to the unfortunate influence of unconscious bias, however, they may not proactively identify a diverse pool of candidates. So, we have to rely on HR leaders to assume authority and clearly request a larger pool of candidates.
Evolve Your Programs
While we dream of a better world, the reality is people hire and promote individuals who share their qualities, and 75 percent of c-suite executives are men. As such, every company needs a program that draws awareness to the lack of opportunities women have to advance into leadership roles or voice their opinions or ideas. An effective program should also demonstrate practical ways to remedy this inequity.
Don’t Let Layoffs Obscure the Real Problem
This work should be animated by a sense of urgency. Women in tech are tired of the existing narratives. Women have watched their organizations suffer as a result of their expertise being ignored or overlooked. Women consistently lose airtime to men with fewer credentials and are then expected to support these men as they step into leadership roles without the tools to execute the job. Women attempt to articulate their value but find that it continuously falls on deaf ears.
There are people who have innovative visions who just need a chance to thrive as their voices have been ignored and marginalized. They’ve settled for existing under the radar. It’s time we make it a habit of asking ourselves and each other when we last made a concerted effort to call on a woman, person of color, trans or nonbinary person who otherwise would not have been granted the opportunity.
The next time a headline screams more mass layoffs in tech are shaking the industry, read between the lines and clearly see the real issue. And then let’s all hold ourselves and each other accountable for taking proper action for the greater good of humanity and its economic prosperity.