Recognizing the value women bring to the tech field
By Stephen Law
Women are still largely unrepresented in the tech industry, at every level. A report by Entelo shows that women represent only 19% of the worldwide tech workforce in entry- and mid-level roles. As you go up the ladder, representation slips down. At the senior level, women hold 16% of positions; at the executive level, it declines to 10%.
How can we bring women into tech organizations and help them stay and grow in order to achieve leadership roles in those organizations? How do we ensure equality in our tech organizations?
Great aptitude for science
As the President of a tech company and the mother of a daughter, these questions are personal. At least in our corner of the world, we are seeing more women in technology, more women get promoted, and women running technology companies. This is proof positive that a lot of women have a great aptitude for science; are equally curious and creative as men; and given our natural strength in communication skills, women have as much to offer and contribute as men.
The Benefit of Diversity
As consumers, we benefit from having more than one perspective in technology, whether it’s more women writing code, designing a user interface, or thinking about the experience of a customer journey through a website. And it’s not just women – the bigger the mix of ethnicities, age groups and gender, the better the outcome is going to be. In fact, diverse companies often perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees, and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion.
Speaking of the workplace, let’s embrace the fact that our leadership style differs from that of men, and use it to benefit the organization. Whether it’s leading a company, a team or even a country, our organizational and problem-solving skills, our ability to keep calm under pressure, and our instinct to be transparent all come into play.
Strong balance of art and science is needed
Many of women’s leadership styles align with what is now considered to be good leadership. It’s a more thoughtful, inclusive approach, one where you are guiding your employees instead of always dictating to them what to do. The former approach creates more trust and autonomy among employees. In the technology realm, where a strong balance of art and science is needed to solve problems and discover new ways of doing things, you want to nurture that autonomy and creative spirit. In the fast pace of technology, companies are often hiring quickly based on years of experience, often penalizing women. So, the next time you are ready to hire someone, look at their potential and their character, not necessarily their experience.
I see this in our organization. Part of Next Pathway’s ability to be innovative in our space is because we’ve given our employees freedom – with some boundaries – to explore. We’re looking to build an environment that fosters comfort and security, as opposed to one where employees feel that if they make a mistake they’re going to get fired. It’s the opposite of the shame and blame culture that you see everywhere in organizations. That kind of environment is stifling; you’ve got to let people feel like they can fail.
We know that women are underpaid for the same role as men, this is seen not only in the technology industry, but across the board. You can’t have true equality until women are paid the same amount of money as men for similar work. As an entrepreneur, I always say, “Just pay me what you think I deserve. I don’t want a break because I’m a woman, and I certainly don’t want to make anything less because I’m a woman. I just want to be paid for what I’m worth.” But many women aren’t paid what they deserve or what they’re worth. Perhaps this is why so many women often leave the workforce and start their own businesses. Companies that provide women equal pay, flexible work hours and the same opportunities for promotion will win out in the long run.
Developing a Sisterhood
Men in leadership roles didn’t get there overnight; they’ve cultivated a solid network: a brotherhood that has helped them along the way. For many men that network started when they played team sports. We need to encourage and cultivate that mentality in young girls – of helping each other and of teamwork. Ultimately, we need to be kinder to each other, to champion each other, and to foster those lasting bonds in the workplace. We need to make a better effort to call out good work and ensure a woman’s hard work is noticed and appreciated.
We need to change our language when we speak to young girls and stop saying things like, “Girls are not good at math.” We also need to change our attitudes about who belongs in the technology sector. If we can remove ingrained stereotypes from our language and our inherent biases, then perhaps the next generation that comes into the workforce won’t be judged by their gender or race but measured purely on their skills.
Risk for the sake of risk is not only irresponsible but could lead to disastrous results. I am talking about taking a calculated risk for a better outcome. Most people shy away from risk because they perceive a bad outcome with anything that is unknown. This is not always the case. We must embrace the idea of a calculated risk. This is especially true in young women and in many cases, adult women too. Being in the game and taking risks is rewarding and sometimes you just have to go for it. It’s not all going to be great along the way, but it’s going to be worth it. Ask yourself, if not now, then when?
The thrill of trying something new and being successful at it teaches you a lot about yourself. Moreover, you learn even more about your ability to be resilient when things fail. Whether you’re starting something new as an entrepreneur, starting a new project, or taking an engineering class that you think is too challenging – this is what makes life really interesting. It’s embracing the idea of “getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It’s when you have those challenges that you really find out what you’re made out of.
Where do we go from here?
Inclusion. It’s a strong word. For me it means, there should be a seat at the table for everyone. Valuing the input of diverse voices, encouraging people to speak, recognizing, and rewarding good work and creating a culture of support where people can be themselves. When we stop talking about inclusion and really do something about it; that’s when real progress will start. I am hopeful about the future of women in technology. More women are applying to engineering, this is great. Let’s makes the work environment open, friendly, and supportive. Inclusion is not only good for women – it’s good for everyone. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is challenging our world. When we have the courage to challenge our world, change will be real and lasting.
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