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While the number of women in STEM has steadily increased since 1970 – when they only made up for it 4% of the industry’s workforce — that number is just 27% Today. Deloitte Insights reported that one in four leadership positions at major global technology companies will be held by women by 2022.
This all sounds promising, but compared to the total share of women in the workforce, it would be remiss to say that this is enough. In addition, only one in 20 of those women in leadership is a woman of color. So what needs to be done to create more inclusiveness and increase opportunities for women in STEM?
Pursue and promote an inclusive culture
Inclusion touches every aspect of culture. It can be difficult to know where to start when building an inclusive culture, but it’s important to understand the overarching goal: to make all employees feel able to bring their authentic selves to work and be ready to to be successful in their role. This is an ongoing process that can be supported by a number of strategies, but here are a few that I’ve found particularly impressive as a mentor, leader, and woman in technology.
Formulate a vision on diversity and inclusion
Define clear success criteria for what a cross-functional inclusive culture looks like in your organization. Also, make sure everyone — from executives and hiring managers to interviewers and individual contributors — is aware of how inclusion and diversity positively impact business outcomes. Making this clear is important to get buy-in and is often not something that is easy to understand. Make sure everyone, especially on international teams, can answer the question, “Why do we care about diversity and inclusion at this company?”
Focus on and emphasize the importance of solid onboarding
Succeed new hires with a solid onboarding process at every level. Make sure they are cross-functionally introduced to people, as well as their colleagues. Not only does this allow for cross-functional exposure and dissemination of ideas and goals, but it also opens up the possibility for people to find more similarities among their peers.
Review your employee training programs
Provide training that aligns well with your inclusive culture and articulates what it means to be inclusive and accepting of others, regardless of their background. This is especially important in global organizations where unique cultures have different traditions and customs. Hold everyone at all levels accountable and accountable for creating and maintaining that inclusive culture through regular training, upskilling and evaluation of practices.
While creating and maintaining inclusivity is incredibly important in the pursuit of representation, it is only half the battle. Supporting an inclusive culture with a diverse workforce is paramount, and vice versa. Without an inclusive culture, team members from different backgrounds will not be able to do their best work — hence diversity and inclusion go hand in hand.
Organizations must recognize that maintaining inclusiveness and increasing opportunities for underrepresented groups, such as women in the technology sector, requires an ongoing, collaborative effort that goes against conventional practices. Leaders need to step out of their comfort zone and be vulnerable and open to change.
Expand opportunities for women in technology, both internally and externally
Within any organization, senior management needs to be aware of current demographics and representation, and ensure that different voices are present – and more importantly, heard. This covers all aspects of the employee journey, from hiring to day-to-day interactions to promotions. Strategies for doing this include:
Provide a meeting place for employees from different backgrounds
Whether it’s a Slack channel for LBGTQ+ employees, an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women in technology, or a monthly lunch with a guest speaker focused on diversity, make sure there are locations where employees can discuss and address problems. By encouraging these group events, companies can provide opportunities for underrepresented employees to network and build each other up. Creating networks and relationships is especially critical for employees who may be starting their first job or taking on a new role where they are seeking guidance on career development opportunities.
Addressing diversity: Create clear career development programs
When creating clear career paths, employees of all backgrounds need to understand how to progress in their careers. Similarly, organizations can work to remove personal biases in promotion decisions. Regardless of how a company approaches diversity issues, it is essential that underrepresented groups and voices are heard and amplified during the career processes faced by a new hire.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving the lack of women and the wider diversity in the tech industry, but it is essential that we recognize and accept that this is an important issue and take steps to end these inequalities. It is up to all of us, especially the leaders, to work towards a corporate culture that not only owns diversity, but also advocates for it and promotes inclusion.
Colleen Tartow is Technical Director at Starburst.
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