A diverse workforce comprised of people from a wide array of cultures, viewpoints and backgrounds is not just a nice to have. It’s essential.
Companies that create inclusive workplaces and encourage success among all employees outperform their competitors. The low percentage of women working in the technology sector is a hotly debated subject in Silicon Valley, but hiring a diverse workforce is not just a challenge for tech firms.
Companies say they want to hire more women, yet most companies, especially in male-dominated fields such as technology, finance, engineering and biotech are far from reaching hiring parity. For example, 57% of professional jobs overall are held by women in the U.S., but only 25% of computing jobs are. In Silicon Valley, just 14% of director titles are held by women. The low percentage of women at Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple has been widely publicized, though these companies are working hard to improve these ratios. The energy and effort from these companies are impressive and appreciated, as it keeps the conversation top of mind. And there are some real success stories; tech company Lever got gender inclusion right from the get-go and has shown real results, all with an authentic and organically grown program.
As a woman who has been in technology for over 20 years, I’ve often been the only woman at the table or on the team. Now, as the COO of a technology company with 475 employees, I spend time researching how to attract and retain women employees, interview men to gain insights into bias and work with our teams to set goals to improve our female staff numbers (which today stand at 42% of our overall workforce, 37% in management and 13% in engineering — not terrible, but not where we want to be). I also recognize that my company works with hourly employers and workers who themselves are diverse, which means our staff will best serve them if we better reflect them.
There’s more to be done, but it’s worth celebrating that the conversation is gaining traction, people are hard at work attempting various programs to address inequality and that progress, while slow, is underway. There is no quick fix here, no magic panacea. Yet, there are things we all can do to get more women succeeding at work.
1. Get engaged in workplace diversity.
The first step toward attracting more women to your team is to actively care about doing so. You can’t change what you don’t watch. Without effort, we are all susceptible to unconscious bias. Everyone has their own biases, but being aware of your company’s female team member statistics and being actively interested in bettering them is a first step.
2. Get to know the women on your team.
Sometimes, the best women candidates are right in front of you; they already work for your company and would thrive with a promotion or transfer to a new department. However, research shows that women don’t “put themselves out there” to ask for promotions as often as their male colleagues do, and are reluctant to take jobs for which they feel inexperienced. Take female coworkers to lunch and ask them about their career goals. Consider mentoring a female team member and coaching her to take a job with more responsibility, even if she doesn’t feel quite ready.
3. Make introductions.
If you know a competent woman looking for her next job, take the time to make introductions to people in your network. In a male-dominated field like technology, it means a lot when a man takes the time to personally recommend a woman for a position, whether that’s an internal promotion or an external hire. Men who venture outside their immediate network, which may be male-dominated, to recommend women for jobs are taking a step toward improving the gender balance.
4. Recognize that the “little things” aren’t so little.
For men, being conscious of how they treat women at the office or in job interviews is important. Not interrupting, giving women proper credit for their ideas and inviting them to share their insights are behaviors that make women feel valued and respected. What’s more, making sure women are present at important meetings and asking a man to take notes are small actions you can take to combat entrenched bias. And, lastly, don’t be afraid to try new things. We recently created a group called Women@Snagajob, open to both men and women, to debate and discuss the gender disparity issue. It has developed into a forum for mentorship, sponsorship, professional development and networking for women and men at our company. Why not try something like this at your office?
Ultimately, the goal is integration: creating a team where people from all backgrounds are encouraged to share their unique talents. This most certainly won’t happen overnight — we’re still working on this at Snagajob and have a way to go. Not everyone has the budget to hire a “chief diversity officer” or pay a consulting firm to create a gender-balanced hiring plan, but these small steps can be the start of any organization’s fair hiring policy and retention techniques that deliver dividends long into the future.
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