Presented by Skillsoft
Today, staying competitive while the economy is in constant flux requires a diverse workforce — and addressing the lack of women in tech roles is key. In this VB Spotlight, learn why gender parity directly impacts the bottom line, and how to find and support talented women, and more.
Register now to watch this free, on-demand webinar!
First there was the Great Resignation, alongside high turnover rates and major demographic shifts in the working population; it follows that the shortage of skilled talent continues, especially in the technology industry. The struggle to fill crucial job roles dovetails neatly with the issue of diversity in the labor force. Women are historically underrepresented in tech fields — but why are qualified women still being overlooked?
In this VB Spotlight, Kelly Deich, executive director, learning and development & chief learning officer at security company ManTech, and Codecademy’s Koma Gandy, VP head of tech and dev content, dove into the need to get more women into the technology field, and help them grow and succeed, why it makes business sense, and more.
Key challenges and barriers
One of the key challenges for women, not just in the technology world but across roles and industries, is representation, says Deich. It starts initially with affinity bias, and then compounds from there. The tendency as humans is to socialize with, hire and promote people who are like us — similar appearance; similar experiences. So, in an industry that’s already overwhelmingly male, diversity in hiring becomes a real challenge.
“We need to start challenging that affinity bias within our organizations to focus on finding employees that are going to bring diverse ideas to the table, allowing us to expand the aperture of the types of people that are involved in this field to include women and people of color,” she says.
There’s a pay gap, but also a promotion gap, she adds, with only 86 women promoted into manager roles for every 100 men. Lack of recognition is one of the major factors behind high turnover rates, and companies lose the diverse perspectives that are crucial to innovation and staying competitive.
On top of that, the COVID pandemic saw almost 2 million women leave the workforce. Companies need to create opportunities for non-conventional returns to work and provide women with tools so they can re-enter the workforce and be successful.
A lack of insight and hard numbers around the extent of the issue is another challenge. Companies need to feel comfortable in collecting metrics, Gandy says.
“We need to understand the places where we’re seeing women either getting stuck, disappearing or not being represented in the opportunities that lead to more senior roles in an organization,” she explains. “You have to be able to find and root out pockets of unconscious bias in the organization, whether it’s with hiring managers who may be accidental gatekeepers, or talking and working with managers who are looking for people and trying to cast their net wide to find people who are suitable for promotion.”
Addressing systemic and organization biases
Putting processes and policies in place mitigates the impact of bias on finding great candidates for more senior opportunities, and identifying qualified internal employees to advance, take on more responsibility, or even move into brand-new roles. And companies with an inclusive business culture and policies dramatically increase profitability, productivity and innovation and gain an enhanced reputation, which in turn enhances its ability to attract and retain talent.
These intentional processes, robust professional development and advancement programs need to address both systemic issues as well as organizational culture. At ManTech, the annual review process has been replaced by a career enablement program, Deich says, to promote regular self-reflection and engagement with managers, so that employees are able to personally tailor their career paths.
“I think that’s a way that we can start to address some of those gender inequalities, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all recipe for what advancement looks like,” she says. “Every individual is going to have a different way to get to where they want to be.”
Increasing the external pipeline is also crucial, such as establishing internship programs and actively seeking out diverse candidates instead of waiting for them to apply, and so on.
“Getting talent early, developing them, helping them stay and see a place for themselves in the future — these are all areas where we can make an impact in bringing a more diverse worker population,” says Diech.
Looking for qualified candidates internally — ones with the potential to grow into new roles and step into larger roles — is increasingly essential as well. That means developing quality upskilling and reskilling programs that embrace how the world of work has changed.
Upskilling and reskilling internal candidates
Internal candidates are a goldmine of company knowledge and savvy. Upskilling and reskilling both prepares employees to be more effective in their current roles, but also advance or even take on new responsibilities and fill in a company’s skill gaps. They also address the changes in the way employees engage with their work today, with the explosion in remote work and geographically dispersed teams, and an increasingly digital world. As a result, career trajectories across the board, tech and non-tech alike, have transformed.
“We need to be able to create educational programs that are reflective of where that individual is in their own career, what that career looks like and where it’s going,” Gandy says. “Once upon a time people thought coding was just coding. I’m going to sit down, learn a programming language, tap a keyboard, and that’s what tech is. That has evolved, especially over the last several years and post-COVID. Everyone is touching some aspect of tech and being able to figure out how to empower people with tech – perhaps taking some of those notions of what tech is and refreshing them with what tech can be.”
In other words, empowering people with knowledge and introducing them to concepts that can help them in their career arc. But technology skills don’t operate in a vacuum, Deich says. You need to know your way around technology, but also develop what are often called soft skills. Ultimately, there is a learning opportunity for everyone.
“We really need to see both of those being available, and having opportunities to bring them together and show how they connect,” she says. “Being able to see each other’s viewpoints and seeing the value in having that well-rounded background will help advance whatever it is we’re trying to do from a business perspective.”
To hear more about the pivotal role gender equity plays in a company’s success, how to change an organization’s culture from the inside out, why upskilling, mentoring and sponsorship programs are important – and how to effectively tailor them to your employees, don’t miss this VB Spotlight event.
Register to watch free on-demand!
- The critical need to uncover and address gender inequities now
- Enabling women with onboarding, reskilling and upskilling to future-proof company strategy
- Benchmarking to uncover inequities and create a robust learning program
- Optimizing and implementing equal opportunity curriculums
- Kelly Deich, Executive Director, Learning and Development & Chief Learning Officer, ManTech
- Koma Gandy, VP Head of Tech and Dev Content, Codecademy
- Carrie Goetz, Amazon Best-Selling Author (Moderator)