Today is International Women’s Day and the theme for this year is #EmbraceEquity. Even with our progress in gender equality, women are still grossly underrepresented in the workplace – only 1 in 4 C-suite executives is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of color.
In the tech industry, the story is similar. Roughly 25% of all tech workers are women and the imbalance dips to 16% female representation in software engineering. As we work to close the gap, women’s representation in tech new hires has increased slightly to 31%.
The recent spate of tech layoffs is not helping progress. Women account for 46% of those let go; a statistic that exponentially shrinks an already underrepresented group. Transformative change will take mass action from all and call for a seismic shift in the way we #EmbraceEquity in the workplace.
I am encouraged that many leaders are coming forward to find a path where they foster diverse workplaces without compromising on the quality of talent or impact. They realize that a more diverse, equitable and inclusive company is a more successful one. Women bring amazing talents, skill sets, experiences, and perspectives that are critical to success.
Here are five ways to #EmbraceEquity in the workplace and close the gender gap to ensure women have the same access to successful, fulfilling careers in tech and have game-changing impact on their workplaces and communities.
More often than not, most leaders today want to take action, but first we need to sincerely address the common refrain of “we just don’t have diverse talent in our pipeline!”
This needs attention at all levels. A strong university recruiting and internship program can have a big impact in diversifying your pipeline, so invest in that. These can and will be your leaders for tomorrow and dramatically influence your talent mix so prioritize these programs in your operating plans. Growing your own talent will always be more effective on impact and your operating margin than poaching from your competition.
Next, closing the gender gap starts with fair and equitable hiring practices and tracking for action against those. Having qualified female representation both in the candidate slate and interview panel is paramount with more than one qualified woman candidate advancing to the final interview round. It’s also critical to have pipeline reporting where applicable by law to know just how many women are being considered – you can’t grow what you don’t know!
Most importantly, creating a culture where all voices are heard is central to have people from all genders, representations and backgrounds succeed. Succession planning, internal promotions, and a commitment to career pathing are important pathways to growing and retaining top talent on your bench. If you don’t create opportunities for your high-performing females one thing is for certain – your competitors will.
The power of community invigorates and blazes trails for many across your organization to succeed. Create several platforms for women and their allies to connect with each other to share their journeys and stories and learn from mentorship opportunities. Employee-led women’s networks can foster an inclusive workplace and are critical catalysts for positive change, giving people a great way to network, learn, and celebrate what makes us different and unique. Leadership advocacy is crucial to success within a women’s network and for ensuring that the issues that matter most to gender equity are heard at the highest levels.
Look for established experts in the space to connect and collaborate with such as Women in Cybersecurity, Girls Who Code, and AnitaB.org. Sponsoring women of all levels to get engaged with non-profit advocacy groups is a great way to encourage networking while casting a wide net for new female talent.
‘Diversity and Inclusion’ is not an initiative; it’s a way of operating. Just as we measure operational efficiency, sales success, and profit margin, if you want to truly #EmbraceEquity, you have to set reasonable goals, create meaningful KPIs, and consistently monitor progress. Statistics like overall gender percentages, percentage of female promotions, diversity mix of both internal and external talent pipelines and percentage of women in leadership positions are key metrics to measure improvement.
Just as important as measuring progress is halting any actions that could stop it. Swift action must be taken on any discriminatory behavior in the workplace.
A learning culture is a more equitable one. To fully #EmbraceEquity, there must be a defined DEI learning journey for all employees at all levels. It starts with leadership training and coaching and includes other key concepts like unconscious bias, microaggressions, sexual harassment, and bystander intervention.
Taking the time to listen and learn from the experiences of others might be the most insightful learning of all. Creating authentic mentoring relationships for women can increase confidence and accelerate development. Best part of the equation? Both sides of the relationship are better for the experience!
When women feel they are being heard and that their voice matters, they use it more. Helping others find their voice can be as simple as asking for an opinion in a meeting or inviting someone to collaborate on a project. Seeking the power of female voices will not only improve your process, it will improve your product.
Inviting women of all levels and functions to make an impact is a win-win on all sides of the equation. You are instilling confidence, unlocking productivity, and building your leadership bench. Making a commitment to #EmbraceEquity is not just something we are doing to improve the workplace – it’s a call to action to improve the world!
Divya Ghatak is a top tech talent executive with over 20 years of global experience. As the Chief People Officer at SentinelOne, Divya is a transformative leader who drives a people-first experience and fosters a values-driven culture. Her true passion is equity in the workplace and continuing to close the gender gap in tech for the next generation, including her lovely daughter, Ananya.