March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on women’s many contributions to society at large and to look ahead and promote, support and nurture one another in our respective fields.
5 Ways to Support Women in Tech
- Speak to young women at high schools and universities.
- Form a women’s employee resource group at the office.
- Organize a “take your daughter to work” day and encourage men to participate, too.
- Invite women speakers to your workplace.
This mandate feels especially crucial in technology. According to Boston Consulting Group, 90 percent of the most attractive jobs in the next few years will be in technology, yet only 20 percent of the people studying technical subjects are women.
We’ve got to get engaged to change this dynamic and see the valuable insights and contributions of women represented more extensively in the technology field.
More Work To Do
When I think back to the early female pioneers in STEM, I realize there were few champions of their achievement. But women like Sister Mary Keller, part of the team that developed the BASIC computer programming language, persevered, becoming the second person, and the first woman, to receive a Ph.D. in computer science. She and others are the trailblazers for women in technology today.
When you look at the big picture of women in technology, the contrast to our male counterparts is stark. Only 25 percent of all positions in the technology industry are held by women, despite the fact that women comprise nearly 47 percent of the entire labor force, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.
So how do we pay it forward for greater participation of women of all ages and backgrounds in our field? I’m talking about little girls in grade school who need a bit of encouragement to fulfill their big dreams. Or women taking night courses in coding to better their lives and their children’s. Or college women pondering a future career and needing a nudge from a mentor, a friend or a family member.
Be a Champion
According to Gartner, we need to focus on a few areas to increase the number of women in the technology workforce: recruitment, retention, and reporting. The first two are particularly important in the technology field, and areas where women, especially, can play an important role. Here’s my two-part challenge.
Identify and pursue opportunities to become a champion for girls and women in technology. Look for ways to model your career and success, and spark interest for others. Here are some ideas:
- Champion a Bring Your Daughter/Friend/Niece to Work Day and promote the event at all levels of your organizations. Encourage men at your workplace to participate, too.
- Be a mentor to young girls and women in the workforce. Invite them to shadow you in your workplace. Let them see you in action, attending meetings, solving problems and finding solutions.
- Seek out opportunities to speak. Reach out to school counselors at high schools and junior colleges and ask about opportunities to speak to young women considering a career in technology. Go to career days, job fairs and classes.
Showing and telling is the best way to cultivate interest. How else will young women gain exposure to the vast array of technology career opportunities?
Focus on retaining women in technology
Almost a quarter million women dropped out of the workforce in the first quarter of 2020, representing $8 billion in lost income. Another 38 percent of women surveyed in November 2021 said they plan to leave their tech jobs in the next two years, which would indicate we haven’t bottomed out yet.
We’ve got to roll up our sleeves to stem the tide of attrition and keep women in tech jobs. To start, look within your workplace and put yourself in the place of other women in the office, especially those younger or less tenured. Ask yourself how you could have benefited at that juncture in your career, then take steps to put a structure in place. Here are a few strategies to help put this goal in motion:
- Form an office resource group targeted to women. Start small with a lunch-and-learn discussion and offer one-on-one or group mentoring, answering questions about your own role and tips for advancement.
- With time, formalize the mentoring group with regular meeting times and agendas with topics contributed by participants. Address current workplace challenges and offer guidance to professionally cultivate female colleagues.
- Leverage the group to develop a mentorship program, pairing more experienced with newer staff.
- Bring a talented guest speaker to an office meeting. Give her an opportunity to speak about her personal experience and inspire others.
- Consider an annual awards party to recognize women for their achievements in the workplace, such as completion of a special project or promotion.
The Time Is Now
Take a moment this Women’s History month to think about the women who came before you. Maybe it was a mentor in your early career or a friend or family member who encouraged you to achieve your full potential. Now it is time for each of us, especially women, to plant the seeds for future generations in the technology industry.
Let’s do our part to recruit, retain and cultivate a new generation of women in technology.
I’d love to hear what others are doing to support women in tech and grow participation in the field. Drop me a line at [email protected] or message me on LinkedIn.