The tech market is estimated to be worth more than $2 trillion, representing 10.5% of the national economy. Today, the industry comprises more than 585,000 companies in the U.S. with career opportunities that are just as vast and varied, including roles in engineering, content strategy, marketing, programming and social media.
These statistics paint a picture of a booming market; however, if you look closer, you’ll see the industry has a gender gap problem. While women make up 49% of the U.S. workforce, they comprise just 26% of the tech industry. At our virtual Equality Lounge™ at CES, we discussed how to share career opportunities with women earlier on and help them advance in the industry.
Here’s how organizations and leaders can get more women in tech:
1. Advocate for women — at every rung along the career ladder.
Make sure that women have a voice in any meeting. Actively encourage women on your team to have a point of view and share it. Pair entry and junior level women with more senior level mentors.
Although women play a key role in holding the door open for other women, the onus to increase representation in tech should not, however, solely fall on the laps of women. Male allies play a key role in advocating for women too.
“It’s important that we educate male leaders on what it means to be an ally,” said Ivonne Kinser, Vice President, Marketing & Innovation, Avocados From Mexico. “A lot of women are passed over for promotions because they supposedly don’t have the leadership skills, but they are being compared to the leadership skills of a male,” she said, noting that our understanding of what qualifies as “leadership” needs to be expanded. “The world is missing the amazing leadership skills of women. Without that balance, organizations won’t advance.”
2. Make representation mandatory.
Studies show that diversity drives revenue and business outcomes. To increase diversity in tech, the mentality that “representation is good to have” has to be flipped on its head to “representation is a must have.”
“People need to see what technology looks like. It can look like hard hats to a full lace front. It can look like whatever you want,” said Janeen Uzzell, CEO of the National Society of Black Engineers. “We can be as rugged as we are regal.”
3. Nurture and support diverse talent early on.
Many young women aren’t nurtured or supported in skills, fields, or interests that are not conventionally “feminine.” To get more women in STEAM, early exposure is key. It is difficult for a girl to have interest in something that she doesn’t have exposure to.
“All the way down to middle school and high school, it’s a huge opportunity and responsibility for organizations to start gaining and propelling interest for girls in tech at a very young age,” said Stephanie Dismore, managing director, North America, at HP Inc.
The value of going into diverse communities and giving students the knowledge that careers in tech are available to them cannot be underestimated. Businesses and organizations need to have these conversations earlier.
“For me, I never had mentors, coaches, sponsorship or anything as a child growing up in D.C. to push me in that direction,” said Roneal Josephs, the Lead Systems Engineer at MITRE Corporation. “I used to play video games, and I knew I was good with my hands, but I never had anyone to nurture that in me.”
4. Cast the net wider for recruiting talent.
Companies should utilize resources and organizations such as National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) that serve as incubators for and connectors to diverse talent.
“It’s so important to have those relationships with those organizations,” said Josephs. “It shows employees that there is intentionality to make things comfortable and to make women and people of color feel seen, heard and supported.”
5. Encourage open dialogue about representation.
Create spaces of open dialogue to ensure employees’ unique experiences and perspectives are valued. The importance of discussions about representation, microaggressions and bias cannot be understated.
“A lot of the onus for these types of conversations falls on diversity or inclusion officers or the people on the receiving end of the bias,” said Cynthia Overton, senior director of Tech Workplace Initiatives at The Kapor Center. “There needs to be more opportunity for open dialogue on issues and situations.”