“When you’ve reached the top, send the elevator back down.” It’s a phrase we hear a lot when it comes to achieving career success and helping others. It sounds idealistic, but actions speak louder than words. How are we, as leaders in the technology industry, supporting the career aspirations of the next generation of women?
Turning Aspirations into Reality
According to the labor force statistics from the 2018 current population survey, women held the majority of “professional and related occupations” at 56%. However, when you drill down into specific roles and examine technology careers such as “computer and mathematical occupations,” the percentage drops significantly – to 25%. This metric has been hovering around 25% since 2001, even despite the increased visibility of STEM and the creation of STEM programs for girls over the past nearly 20 years.
There is also the White House Counsel for Women and Girls, established in 2009, which focuses on creating legislation that supports equal pay and opportunity, issues that women have fought to overcome for most of the 20th century, and now into the 21st. Getting more women into the technology field may be a small piece of the puzzle, but the fact of the matter is that the foundation is there and has been there for more than a decade. The visibility, initiatives, and programs are all in place – now it’s a matter of making actions speak louder than words.
Time to Engage
There are many theories as to why the number of women in technology is stagnant. Some articles attribute this reality to a hiring bias or a work-life balance issue. Others say it’s the fear of sexual harassment in a male-dominated field. While all of these issues might factor in somewhere, I believe it also has something to do with a lack of proactive engagement with other women.
As a female leader in technology, I believe it’s critical to be visible and to get involved. In a recent Deloitte study that polled women in the automotive industry, more than 75% of respondents identified “technology” as the top field they would pursue if they left automotive. Those same women noted that one of the most impactful programs to attract and retain women is “identifying and increasing the visibility of key leaders who serve as role models for employees.” Don’t be invisible. Make the most of your influential status within your organization and let younger women (and men) see you in a place of power. If they see a woman in the boardroom and on the list of executive bios, it becomes less and less of an anomaly. It becomes the status quo.
Supporting the Next Generation
While an influx of women choosing technology as a career path is not going to happen overnight, we can make a significant impact by supporting the women already in these roles as well as those graduating college and entering the workforce. There are several mentorship benefits for women in STEM careers, including feeling “satisfied with their rate of promotion,” and “confidence in asking for a raise.”
Mentorship is a simple step to “send the elevator back down.” The statistics show that as a woman and a leader in tech, you have already made the bold choice to be one of the 25% to embark on a technology career. Keep the momentum going! Provide guidance, share your wisdom, be visible, and continue to break barriers in the tech industry. Together, we can embolden the next generation.