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Cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion – How CIOs recruit and retain experienced women in tech

June 27, 2021
Diversity & Inclusion

Aniyah enjoyed her role as a divisional technology executive within a large financial banking enterprise, but she frequently grappled with the cultural expectation of long work hours, few advancement opportunities, and lack of women role models. So, when her spouse received a job offer in another state, Aniyah reflected on her 12-year career and realized it was time to consider all her options. Family planning had become a serious topic in her partnership, and while she wasn’t prepared to write off all future work in technology, she decided to pause her own career to focus on what mattered most at this life stage.

Unfortunately, Aniyah is not alone. A 2008 study featured in Harvard Business Review reported that the attrition rate for women in technology is more than twice the rate for men. Women leave for a variety of destinations—some choose to start their own tech-related business or move to jobs outside of tech. But many leave the workforce entirely, at least temporarily, to attend to family responsibilities, further their education, or pursue personal interests (figure 1). Unfortunately, little is truly known on current attrition rates within the tech profession as a whole and where these women end up, but it’s likely safe to say that this data continues to remain relatively unchanged.

As we explored in our article titled Repairing the pipeline, women make up only about 25% of technology workers, with even fewer Black (9%) and Latinx (7%) workers holding tech jobs. Even when companies do a better job of recruiting women and other underrepresented groups into entry-level positions, a higher percentage of women than men leave tech roles before they reach leadership ranks.

So how can technology executives reverse this trend? No one has all the answers, but our research and interviews with CIOs and tech leaders reveal a wide range of approaches that, when combined, can lead to comprehensive strategies designed to recruit and retain talented experienced women and other underrepresented groups. An objective of these strategies is to advance more women into senior leadership roles so they may inspire, mentor, and serve as role models for those coming up behind them. Over time, these strategies and behaviors can contribute to an inclusive, diverse workforce that supports enterprise innovation and growth as we explored in Paving diverse paths to technology leadership and Innovating for all.

In this article, the seventh in Deloitte’s DEI for Tech Leaders series, we take a closer look at how technology organizations (the technology function within an organization) can help close gender, race, and ethnicity gaps with holistic strategies to specifically recruit and retain experienced women technologists. While our focus is primarily on women in technology, many of the approaches may also apply to other underrepresented groups.

In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that 74% of women in technology jobs experienced gender discrimination at work.5 Further, a 2020 survey of Deloitte’s workforce and technology clients confirmed that gender bias remains an ongoing concern. When asked to reflect on their cumulative technical and career experiences, respondents collectively identified gender bias as the top barrier preventing women in technology roles from moving into leadership positions, followed by work/life integration and lack of sponsorship (figure 2).

For women with access to secondary resources and opportunities, leaving their jobs may be a viable solution to ending immediate discrimination or unrealistic expectations. Some, like our main character Aniyah, leave the workforce to focus on family due to the lack of work/life integration options. Others may continue in stagnant, often disappointing, careers because exiting their role is not a viable option due to economic, health, or support network limitations. This often results in the need to “mask” their authentic selves, or downplay their identity, in order to adapt to the workplace environment.6 Either way, the company often loses valuable, productive talent that may be hard to replace with less experienced people.

Plant seeds: Recruiting diverse experienced technologists

Even companies that are recognized among the best workplaces for women face stiff competition for acquiring women technologists. There are not enough qualified women candidates to fill today’s high demand for technology talent, especially in a booming tech environment where gender parity and diversity are strategic imperatives. As a result, tech leaders are becoming increasingly focused on devising and enhancing recruiting methods to attract and recruit women from often overlooked talent pools. READ MORE

by Kristi Lamar & Anjali Shaikh


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