I’ve been in the technology industry for over 25 years, winding my way around the world and through roles at a handful of leading technology companies. I’ve been a Principal, a Practice Director, a Global Vice President, CIO and more. However, no matter where I’ve been or what role I’ve had, I’ve always been a woman working in the technology industry. Although I was often the only woman working within a team of men, I never saw it as a disadvantage. Instead, I chose to leverage how I saw a situation or event differently from my teammates and show what unique perspectives I could contribute. It was rare to have challenges with male team members, but when an issue arose, I had to be resilient and tenacious. Most importantly, I had leaders who recognized how and when to step-in to get the team dynamics back on track.
After reflecting on my journey, I’ve identified five things tech companies can do to support women in the workplace:
1. Transform learners into leaders
My family and I recently moved from Washington, D.C. to Seattle. Our daughter participates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, and we’ve been lucky to find opportunities for her no matter where we live, but not every child has support and access to their interests.
I’ve developed a passion for mentoring young learners, particularly girls. In my opinion, most classrooms across the country support a very narrow range of learning styles, and the average classroom doesn’t support the variety of interests held by our children. In large cities like Seattle and Boston, there may be robust, gender-diverse STEM programs, but extracurriculars are still limited across the country. In fact, although STEM interest is equal in young learners, around the age of 13, girls lose interest much more rapidly than their male counterparts.
So how can tech companies encourage STEM learning? By providing opportunities for hands-on learning like summer camps, office visits, and more. If there’s a gap in the opportunities provided by schools, tech companies can fill it by sponsoring and/or hosting events to sow seeds of interest, create role-models, and contribute to a vision of success. At Logic20/20, we partner with the Rainier Scholars program, attending job fairs, hosting interns, and providing career training days. I believe that there’s no better way to invest in our future than investing in our children.
2. Hire outside the box
Although they make up half of the US workforce, a recent study indicated that women hold only 20% of tech industry jobs. While I’m sure a lot of factors contribute to this, I think a restrictive hiring mentality is partially responsible—both from the hired and the hiring; companies need to hire both gender-diverse and education-diverse employees.
I’ve counseled many young people starting their careers. There are plenty of young women jazzed about STEM, but an equal number of them aren’t. It never ceases to amaze me how easily those in the second group dismiss a career in the tech industry simply because they aren’t interested in STEM. If STEM isn’t your interest or skillset, that’s ok! There are still a variety of industry roles available to you.
For businesses, hiring educationally diverse employees brings value: While engineers and mathematicians see numbers, artists are naturally inclined to look at usability. Non-traditional paths for hiring that include varied perspectives allow for higher product quality and better adoption.
It’s important for both people and companies to embrace the idea that diversity of all kinds creates powerful results. If there are women with STEM skills, hire them! If there are women with other skills, like art or liberal studies, hire them! There’s a place for everyone.
3. Improve representation
In the past five years, I’ve spoken at a handful of technology conferences in the US and abroad, specifically in Latin America and at last year’s Oracle OpenWorld. My experience was the same at both: as I spoke about the transformation of technology and cloud services, my audience was a sea of men. I could have counted on one hand the number of other women I saw.
Whether at events geared toward specific audiences or simply in upper management, tech companies can provide visibility and a platform for change, improving representation for minority groups of all kinds. Logic20/20 recently sponsored a Wine & Wisdom event where I was invited to speak on a panel about my career. In this case, we had over fifty people in attendance, most of them women.
I feel that it’s important for people of all kinds to see themselves reflected in their communities, in positions of power, and in the workplace. For young learners, the experience of identifying with a role model is irreplaceable. For workers, finding community or aspiration in their industry has the same effect.
4. Create an environment where people thrive
A thriving team requires that people contribute effectively, but this can only happen in earnest when they feel seen and valued. One of my favorite things about Logic20/20 is our “culture of we,” which is a core company value that infuses our daily work with an attitude of teamwork and acceptance. We work to understand our employees and make good use of their talents and interests. Although company goals should reflect growth direction and strategy, it’s important that they also align with company values. Prioritizing the creation of an inclusive, prosperous environment will keep employees engaged, driven, and committed, no matter their background.
5. Stay informed
In one recent study, 57% of women said that gender equality in their workplace hadn’t changed at all in the past year. It’s clear that equality is an ongoing struggle, and in order to face this head-on, it’s important for companies remain aware of employee opinions and industry standards. Diversity & Inclusion committees like the one recently created at Logic20/20 are a great tool to empower employees and company leaders to stay attuned to their company culture.
Since beginning my career in 1992, I’ve been lucky to have had many leaders who not only believed in women but chose to strengthen their teams with the diversity women bring to the table. As leaders in the tech industry, we have an unparalleled opportunity to properly set that table and bring all voices into the conversation. I can’t wait to see where the next five years take us, and how we build a better future for all employees in the world of technology.