Not too long ago, women who worked in the technology industry or in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers would tell you that they were often the only female in the room. And it was uncomfortable.
As more women pursue careers in technology and other STEM fields, the numbers are increasing, but women continue to face challenges as they pursue advancement in these high-growth fields. The organizational practices and attitudes that exist in these industries tend to reinforce many of the roadblocks that prevent women from advancing.
In the MarketWatch article Time’s up for ‘tech-bros’ to get in line with the #MeToo movement Tech CEO Patrick Palm says, “Much has been written about the toxic ‘bro’ culture embedded in certain tech companies, and these companies must comprehensively address this issue through personnel and policy changes. But at the industry level, the tech sector is unique in having the tools to dissolve hierarchies and actively using those tools to change how work gets done. Now tech has the opportunity to apply these same tools to change how workers treat each other.”
Thanks to high-profile news stories such as the James Damore case at Google last year and the multiple cases of corporate #MeToo outings, many organizations are now working overtime to remove the barriers to advancement by developing talent acquisition strategies to attract more women and talent management programs to support their career growth. They are also implementing more rigorous standards for gender bias and harassment training.
The HR technology industry sits distinctly at the intersection of technology and human capital management and is now setting the standard for how other industries should support women in tech roles. Many of the challenges facing women in tech careers are attributed to the candidate funnel, inadequate professional development opportunities, hiring for “cultural fit” and other similar circumstances that lead organizations to simply reinforce existing imbalances. While not the only issues facing women, they are important, and often owned by HR.
In my interview with CEO of Blendoor and 2018 HR Tech Conference – Women in HR Technology panelist Stephanie Lampkin, she says that the first step to fixing the problem is admitting the problem … and then making people accountable. “Education must be coupled with accountability,” says Lampkin. “The idea of tracking and measuring where gender bias impacts talent acquisition and talent management seems a little daunting to most, but I’m a firm believer that you can’t fix what you don’t measure. There is also algorithmic bias. Most companies use some sort of resume filtering or candidate rating system that often times uses factors that are historically biased against women (like how quickly someone was promoted in their last role).”
On September 11, 2018, the HR Technology Conference & Expo will offer its third annual “Women in Technology” preconference program, which will feature several tech executives sharing stories from their careers and offering advice. Women in Technology Chair Jeanne Achille, an HR technology expert and the founder and CEO of The Devon Group, says, “Awareness coupled with technology begets change; historically, this has been validated repeatedly. In recent years, tools such as Slack have driven team collaboration; assessment tests have improved leadership pipelines; and artificial intelligence has enhanced the job candidate experience. Now, the time has come to stop dancing around the business-critical issue of gender equality and start putting the investments and programs in place to make it part of every organization’s DNA.”
Every organization has technical roles and departments—even if it is not specifically a technology company. What are you doing as an employer to attract and support more women in technical careers?
Please join @shrmnextchat at 3:00 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT on September 12 for #Nextchat with special guest Jeanne Achille (@jeanneachille) and Women in HR Tech presenters Cecile Alper-Leroux (@cecilehcm), Alys Scott (@AlysWhistleHill) and Katharine Mobley (@KatharineMobley). We’ll chat about how HR can work inside and outside their organizations to attract, develop and support more women in technical careers.
Q1. What unique challenges do women face—or have you personally faced—in traditionally male-dominated fields such as technology, accounting, law enforcement or sports media?
Q2. How can the barriers be removed to create the experience that will help women gain the skills to advance and thrive in their roles?
Q3. What is your organization and HR leadership doing to hire, develop and promote women? What specific pay equity initiatives or programs have you created?
Q4. HR has a huge role in neutralizing gender bias from the supervisor to the C-suite. How are you tackling this issue in your organization with technology and training and other methods for building awareness?
Q5. How and where can women in technology—and all industries—create and cultivate strong industry networks? What are some resources?
Q6. A part of the conversation that’s missing when we talk about equality in the workplace is women who hold other women back. How can women inside organizations overcome this type of unfriendly competition?
Q7. If you’re a woman who has left a career in the technology industry, why did you leave and what are some important career lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Q8. What advice do you have for women who would like to pursue a career in technology or a STEM related industry? What skills are most needed?
SHRM has started a global conversation about closing the skills gap, getting business immigration right and addressing workplace harassment. We invite you to join us in the coming months as we engage our profession, policymakers and the public in meaningful discussions. Visit SHRM.org/work and join the conversation on social using #wearework. We want to know: What does a better workplace mean to you?