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No one blinks when they find out your doctor is a woman. Or your lawyer. Or your accountant. But try telling them that your CTO is a “she” or your IT “guy” isn’t a guy at all — you might get a different reaction. That’s a problem, of course. Fortunately, it’s solvable. As leaders, we can help pave the path to a tech career, making it less daunting for women.
As a woman who’s been successful in navigating the rocky road to tech success, I can attest to the fact that it can be done. If you have a dream, you can do it. I just wish that women could realize equality in the technical fields a little faster. According to one CIO Magazine article from 2023, women make up merely 28% of the computing and math-focused worker population. Perhaps worse, about half of the women employees who start in tech eventually leave the tech world behind. Those aren’t great numbers, but they shouldn’t serve as barriers.
The fact is, technology is an amazing sector. It’s growing all the time, and opportunities are opening up left and right. Who would have guessed just a decade ago that podcasting technology for brands would be so needed? Now, it’s not only a “thing:” It’s a “thing” that’s in high demand. That’s why I moved into the niche.
Women who are passionate about all things technology-related have so many directions to go in. However, they need to get a foot in the door first. If you’re in a leadership role where you can help women move into tech, I urge you to apply some of these tips. You’ll be doing a favor not just to talented, tech-minded women but to all the industries that need them.
1. Eliminate biased hiring practices
Several researchers dove into the statistics of inclusive organizations in 2021. These were businesses devoted to diversity. Nevertheless, they still found tons of biased hiring happening. In one case, female STEM majors needed perfect GPAs to effectively compete with their male counterparts with lower GPAs.
My guess would be that those companies’ leaders had no clue they were making the candidate journey harder for women. They probably assumed that everyone was being treated fairly. Instead of making the same error, work with your human resources director and hiring managers. Figure out if unconscious bias may be sneaking into the way you evaluate tech applicants.
One way to remove gender bias includes taking identifiable names and information off applications. You may also want to wait to conduct face-to-face interviews until the last rounds of decision-making. Using digital, AI-fueled platforms can help, too, especially in the early stages of screening.
2. Offer female employees the chance to laterally move to tech roles
Let’s say you have a female employee in a non-tech department. She mentions that she’d like to learn more about technology and maybe one day hold a technical position. Is it possible to make that happen? Perhaps, if you set up professional development and mentorship programs within your company.
You can’t assume that every worker in your business wants to stay where they’re at forever. Many will want to make lateral moves at some point during their tenures. Why couldn’t those lateral moves be across silos and not just from one cubby to the next? I got my start in marketing. However, I gradually pivoted myself into a more tech realm. I still have my marketing chops, of course. I just use them differently as the head of a more technical startup.
You shouldn’t risk losing a good employee just because she’s interested in doing something different career-wise. According to Qualtrics, the average churn rate is 10.6% across all organizations. This means that if you can get your turnover to single digits, you can avoid saying goodbye to superstars. At the same time, you may be able to guide a female team member into a technical position. She’ll stay with your company, and you’ll increase the number of women in tech on your staff. Everyone wins.
Related: 3 Tips for Promoting From Within
3. Switch to a female-friendly tech vendor
There’s a saying that you’re judged by the company you keep. It’s true in business as well as personal life. When you partner with vendors who prioritize gender equality — including in places where women are historically underrepresented — you make a big statement. Effectively, you tell the world that you’re going to be the change you want to see.
For example, let’s say that you’re trying to pick a new vendor for a technical service you need. Though the vendors you’re evaluating are all unique in some ways, they’re not too different. Except one has obviously given women more chances to try their hand at technical jobs.
Is it worth giving that latter company your business? By doing so, you’ll show your support. You may even prove to be an encouragement for the women in your workplace who have considered tech at some point. You may find the experience an opening for what McKinsey & Company calls supplier collaboration, too. That is, you and your new vendor may be able to form other partnerships, like perhaps a joint tech internship for female college students.
Women who want to jump into tech shouldn’t be held back. By tackling the problem of gender inequalities in the industry now, we can all make having a tech career easier for future generations.