The tech industry’s gender gap is a familiar topic. And whether the familiarity comes from personal experience, from studies exploring the underrepresentation of women in the industry, or the seemingly constant barrage of news articles documenting the #MeToo movement, there are proven ways to address gender inequality in tech — and plenty of reasons why we should.
The #MeToo movement has sharpened the focus on gender equality and surrounding issues in Silicon Valley, where we are based. At Regroup, we walk the talk of addressing gender inequality. It’s not just important to us as a moral issue — it’s good business. Increasingly, millennials, both in the workforce and as clients, are seeking out businesses that reflect the values that are important to them, including diversity issues and equality.
In an era where women only hold 5 percent of leadership positions in the tech industry, Regroup is a company with a 45 percent female employee base, with women making up 50 percent of the leadership team.
The major and oft-unmentioned reason we believe in cultivating a gender-diverse workforce is that it serves the customer better. Diversity of thought leads to creative problem-solving, is fiscally responsible, and is critical at a time of low unemployment — and growing technology workforce needs.
At the Educause trade show in Denver, we were pleased to participate in a breakout session designed to encourage creative ways to attract more young women into STEM careers. A snapshot of what we learned:
- There will be 3.5 million computing-related job openings by 2026
- Just 26 percent of the computing workforce are women
- Only 10 percent of those jobs are filled with women of color
Amy Hershman, central area manager of strategy and planning at Cisco, was among one of many mentors leading the Educause session.
“We know that a variety of communication skills and diversity of thought build better customer experiences,” she says. “STEM jobs aren’t just about coding — companies need to think holistically about how they approach their customers and how they serve those customers.”
Gender Equality: Good for Business
I’ve personally experienced various forms of gender discrimination throughout my career and regularly watch female colleagues navigate challenging situations ranging from deciding when to have children, to how to ensure they get credit for the work they’ve done.
In fact, studies show the most successful companies have more gender diversity: A few years ago, University of Maryland and Columbia University researchers examined the effect of gender diversity on some of America’s largest firms and discovered female representation in top management increased a company’s value by $42 million dollars.
To encourage success, companies shouldn’t assume what female employees need to be more successful — they should ask. After taking a lot of feedback from employees and applicants alike, Regroup made the decision to give employees the option to work remotely more frequently. We found that this especially makes it easier for our female employees who are trying to balance various aspects of life including family needs, educational ambitions, and even fulfilling dreams of traveling before having children.
As a working mom of three, I appreciate the encouragement of a flexible work schedule, which allows me to be home in the event of a sick child, and it’s easier to work around the ever-changing school and activity schedules.
How Can Tech Companies Fix Gender Inequality?
A flexible work schedule better tailored to families is just one way tech companies can help improve the gender gap. Other approaches include:
- Encourage mentorship: The Educause event was all about making time for other women. Find ways in your business and with your business networks to mentor and encourage women in STEM careers.
- Address diversity in the hiring process: Do your female employees have any input into the hiring process? Will female applicants be exposed to women on the interview panel and be encouraged to ask female employees about their experiences? If you’re answering no here, you may be alienating the very women you’re trying to attract.
- Create inclusiveness: Move beyond setting female-inclusive hiring goals and be inclusive of all underrepresented groups. Diversity means accepting and encouraging unique individuals in each area of the company. Talking about diversity shouldn’t stop after making a couple of new hires.
- Track progress: Set goals as a company and routinely solicit anonymous feedback from employees. Compare the results quarter over quarter and year over year. You may be able to identify areas for improvement and develop new approaches to current processes.
There are certainly more women working in tech now than ever before, and this is bringing much-needed scrutiny to the gender disparity issue. At Regroup, the topic of gender equality is routinely discussed at the managerial level so a culture of inclusion and mutual respect is fostered from the top down.
We all can play a part to make the tech industry more inclusive — especially tech company leadership who need to start holding themselves accountable and take immediate steps to eradicate the gender gap. Flexible work arrangements, cross-organizational gender councils and a top-down approach to gender parity are just some examples of how companies can increasingly attract female candidates or better serve its female employees right now.
About the Author
Alaina Bravo is the Marketing Director at Regroup Mass Notification. Alaina is a growth-focused SaaS marketer with expertise in full-funnel marketing. She’s skilled in elevating brand names, driving revenue, and engaging clients in creative ways to retain their business for the long-term.