Women In Tech: 3 Ways Companies Can Bridge The Gender Gap

June 17, 2019

Women in tech aren’t exactly a rarity but being in a male-dominated industry can be an uphill battle. Mason Frank International acknowledges technology being one of the worst represented industries with women making up less than 20%. To bridge the gap, companies, leaders, and universities are encouraging women to study a science, technology, engineering or math subject, often known as STEM

Elite universities such as Stanford and Berkeley reported about 50% of their introductory computer science students being women. Yet last year, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report stating twice as many men are employed in STEM occupations than women who hold the same qualifications. Adia's people operations manager Elizabeth Wong states: "Recruiting women is one issue, but if companies don't have inclusive workplaces, trying to hit some kind of arbitrary quota is going to be fruitless."

Time Recruitment mentioned a 2015 study that found more than half of the women who broke into tech ended up leaving for a different sector entirely. They cited their top reason for leaving was due to culture and not because their job was hard. Women who left the tech sector left because they were bullied, isolated, experienced poor management, lack of feedback and little to no opportunity to advance their career. Their experiences left a poor taste in their mouth giving them no desire to ever return.

The time for change is now. Here are 3 ways companies can bridge the gap and champion for the success of women in tech.

Disrupt The Traditional And Raise Awareness

Companies that speak out about wanting to welcome more women in tech are the ones that have the most success attracting them. Beyond mentorship, there are various ways companies can invest in the development of the women on their team and advocate for their success.

According to Fortune, "SAP hosts a monthly 'Women's Professional Growth' webcast series, which has reached over 11,000 people in more than 40 countries." This initiative has helped women to feel more connected to other women in the tech sector around the world. The webcast series focuses on sharing inspirational stories, challenges and hurdles and opening up dialogue to create supportive bonds.

Salesforce is another company at the forefront of pioneering ways to encourage women to break into tech and normalize the shift from a male-dominated industry into an industry of equality. Tony Prophet, the newly appointed chief equality officer at Salesforce, is invested in closing the equality gap and setting an example. One look at his background proves he's committed to paving the path to open more doors for women globally.

One of his first initiatives with the cloud-based software company was creating a women's network community. With over 6,000 members across 30 plus hubs globally, Salesforce has created LeanIn Circles, volunteer opportunities, Women in Technology programs, mentorship opportunities, International Women's Day events, a Woman of the Month series and various other empowerment groups to support their women employees.

Companies should take the lead to form partnerships and seek feedback from the women on their team to create programs and initiatives that best support them. Together, they can create opportunities for women to share ideas and discuss important topics in a safe space where they can be vulnerable. The real value comes when managers and executives buy-in and support these initiatives proving their dedication to bridging the gap. 

Eliminate Bias And Promote Inclusivity

HR professionals should work with hiring managers to revamp job descriptions and focus on rephrasing the language to speak to both women and men. Traditional tech job descriptions are littered with masculine language repelling strongly qualified women. Eliminating the gender gap is more than looking past the indicated gender on a resume or application, it’s proactively evaluating and rephrasing the language used to speak to candidates.

The Financial Times recently interviewed Vodafone on how they reduced gender bias in their job descriptions across their global offices. The telecommunications company piloted a program replacing "masculine" words such as win, aggressive, kick and outstanding with more neutral and "feminine" ones such as bold, top-tier, extraordinary and improve. This simple initiative increased the number of women Vodafone recruited by 7% in just three months.

Some companies have trained their staff in unconscious bias awareness by blinding CVs, so recruiters don’t know the name and sex of the applicants. They also prioritized shortlisting female candidates to include at least two women for roles, especially senior ones. Catalina Schveniger, Vodafone global head of resourcing and employer brand, found having at least two women per shortlist for role increases the chances of one of them getting the job by 50%.

It's crucial companies understand the importance of promoting inclusive cultures. HR professionals can champion this cause by partnering with marketing teams and hiring managers to promote women leaders in tech as well as their female employees across their social media channels. They can also use the online space to promote internal happenings such as women's groups, women's day events, and book clubs to name a few.

Create Supportive Networks and Communities

To make women feel welcome, it's imperative leaders and managers foster a workplace that enables them to develop in their roles. As the new era of workers takes over the workforce, tech companies are struggling to create more diverse and inclusive cultures for women in tech.

Offering perks such as flexible working arrangements and improved maternity leave has become a requirement but retaining women in tech requires more than providing baseline incentives. Companies need to actively invest in their female employees to prevent them from feeling isolated. There are a variety of ways companies can invest in and support the women in their company.

To name a few that have been most effective are establishing mentorship programs, funding and supporting workshops, conferences, and events that focus on their career path and enhancing their skill set. Some companies have invested in the inception of internal women-focused groups.

Dynamic Signal has a strong female leadership team with an outstanding 40% of the executive team being female and a sizable portion of that being the engineering team. An Le, Dynamic Signal COO, states her mission is to continue driving this development throughout the company by encouraging women to recommend female peers and counterparts for new roles. She believes this ensures the company to have women in leadership at all levels.

The technology company has several female-led initiatives including an active Employee Resource Group (ERP), Women of DySi, that is led by women from every department and level of seniority. Men are also actively involved to support their female counterparts. Women of DySi is leading the way in Silicon Valley through hosting internal events and inviting local female leaders to speak to women about mentorship, investing, leadership, career paths, and empowerment.

It’s true that women need to be each other's allies and band together to support one another, but the greater impact comes from men and the management team empowering and standing up for them. Instead of perpetuating toxic and hostile behavior towards women, companies should take preventative measures through training, inclusive language, a focus on equality and investing in creating a culture of inclusion. 

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.
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