Editor’s Note: The Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women is October 21, so we couldn’t have picked a better time for this thought provoking piece from TriNet on women in technology.
Technology is still a male-dominated industry. Some say it’s due to chauvinistic managers who are naturally inclined to hire men. Others claim it’s the lack of females majoring in computer science and engineering, which is between 15% and 30%. Others believe women who choose to start a family, rather than a tech career, are skewing the numbers. The truth is, the reasons are irrelevant; it just needs to change.
It could be a combination of all the issues above, but the discrepancy boils down to one thing: the tech industry may not be as attractive or welcoming for women as it is for men. Startups with at least one woman on their founding team are 18% less likely to attract equity investors, yet they are almost 20% more likely to have generated revenue. In a world where the vast majority of startups fail, it would seem in everyone’s best interest to create more open environments for women to contribute and participate.
The problem extends beyond environmental conditions to salary inequality. Recently, Burton Goldfield, President and CEO of TriNet, published an article detailing the results of a gender pay gap study that showed women in the tech industry receive wages closer in range to their male counterparts yet still remain unequal in other significant ways. For instance, female managers make an average of 28% less than male managers, but within the technology industry, the gap is 12%– better, but still unacceptable.
So if women in the technology industry have a better chance at equal pay, and women starting tech businesses are succeeding more often, why aren’t employers attracting and retaining female employees? Answer: Employers need to change their policies and environments.
1.) Self-audit and remove the salary gap!
One of the easiest ways for tech companies to retain their top female talent is simple: self-audit and remove any gender salary gap. Not paying your employees equal compensation for the same roles is not only discriminatory, but simply wrong. An unbiased audit will help a company determine if there are discrepancies in their organization. If discrepancies are found, employers should adjust salaries and refine human resources policies to align the pay with work and skill verses gender.
Women who are fairly compensated are less likely to look for new job opportunities. In the long run, proving equal pay for equal work may reduce the employer’s risk of future claims of discrimination based on gender. And as Burton Goldfield mentions in his article, there may be an even bigger benefit: it will help us evolve as humans.
2.) Make the work/life balance easier.
The idea that women must choose between a career and a family still exists. To change this prevalent notion is out of the hands of the employer, but understanding it is not. Allowing employees to work remotely either on a regular or emergency basis can also give more flexibility to parents and help balance their personal and professional lives. Having onsite daycare or offering local daycare as part of a benefits package can help parents out immensely as well.
Also, offering a customizable total compensation package where employees can choose to receive a reduced salary in exchange for additional vacation time might attract mothers and retain those contemplating leaving to focus on their family life. Don’t neglect to include paternity leave policies as well; fathers should be able to support their families too.
Additionally, not all women are leaving because they want to start a family. In fact, of the women in technology who leave their employer at the mid-level point of their career, only 20% actually leave the workforce. Half stay in the tech field and work for another company or work for themselves. The remaining 30% leave the technology sector completely, but continue working. If better options were in place, this is preventable attrition.
A work environment that promotes work/life balance is good for both genders, but could be particularly appealing to women who recently started or are looking to start a family.
3.) Encourage innovation by creating diverse teams.
Innovation is born out of creative and diverse environments. Embed collaboration in the corporate culture to encourage diverse ideas. Promote teamwork by providing networking events within your organization so female employees, who may feel isolated in a male dominated department, can become more engaged.
Also, provide mentorship programs within your organization. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, illustrated female employees are not always clear on their career paths within male dominated fields and often lack mentors. Be innovative and make your company a welcome environment for fresh perspectives.
Rather than being a company whose female workforce reflects the tech industry stereotype, be the company that women work for in spite of the tech industry stereotype. Innovation comes in many forms, and in an industry where innovation is a game changer, it’s ironic that more tech companies have not done enough to embrace women as a valuable asset to their workforce.
As far as valuable resources go, women represent a wealth of untapped knowledge in the tech industry. Now is the time to change that.
(This story has been updated to reflect changes from the author.)
How do you think Indiana fares in attracting, retaining and employing women in technology compared to the aforementioned lackluster national statistics? Please share your views in the comments section below.