The gender gap in the technology field has been widening since the 1980s. Today, only 18 percent of U.S. computer science graduates are women, compared to 37 percent in 1984.
Women continue to be underrepresented in the tech workforce, which is both a societal concern and a major workforce problem. Progressive, forward-thinking leaders and organizations wanting to elevate and retool their current female workforce can start by following these four strategies.
Taking advantage of federal grants
There are federal grants available for companies wanting to grow their female tech force. Two specific programs, Apprenti (which is being run by industry trade association Washington Technology Industry Association) and Per Scholas, have focused on opening transformative technology doors for women and minorities.
Develop a positive mentorship program
Employees won’t stay where they feel they aren’t welcomed. This is especially relevant for female employees working in a field where they are statistically outsiders. Creating a mentorship program for women breaking into a new career path can help female employees feel accepted and adequately educated within their company. This simple step is often skipped over or altogether ignored. However, it can pay dividends if planned and executed thoughtfully.
It’s no secret that there should be a flexible career and lifestyle balance in order to retain the best employees. Creating this balance reduces the pressure on an employee who often must choose between their personal and professional lives. Allowing flextime or offering continuing education opportunities in the evenings as opposed to weekends can allow for overall job satisfaction and new skills at the office.
Invest in alternatives; re-tooling technical talent
If you or your company lack a solid platform to teach employees new skills, there are companies (like MAX Technical Training) that can do it for you! Two local companies already implementing this approach are Western & Southern and Great American Insurance Company.
Western & Southern assisted Christina Fox, former Assistant Manager of Mail Production by offering her the opportunity and picking up the cost to retrain her as a Programmer. According to Bonnie Wathen, IT recruiter, retraining a talented associate for a new role in IT proved to be a win for both the associate and the company.
Similarly, Great American Insurance Company has hired and trained over 30 non-programmers to be software developers in recent years. One of those developers, Holly Parker, initially earned a Geology degree. In September of 2012, Holly enrolled in a MAX Technical Training class that included only one other woman. Now, almost six years later, Parker says it’s the best decision she’s ever made. Jane Bracken, Divisional Senior Vice President, Great American Insurance Group IT Services notes; “With a competitive job market, Great American decided to invest in alternatives for onboarding technical talent several years ago. It’s a commitment from the Company to invest in and continue a successful professional development and mentoring program.”
There are many programs available, and subtle culture shifts companies can make to be more conducive to fostering female tech talent. As we see progressive companies adopt these strategies and become more aware of the value in offering their female associates new opportunities, we will also begin to see more women in tech-related roles- and that is win-win for us all.