by Asha Saxena, President and CEO of Future Technologies |
Tech jobs are undoubtedly on the rise. Code.org predicts that by 2020, computing jobs will have more than doubled to 1.4 million. Not only that, but a recent survey by the Technology Councils of North America revealed that 74 percent of tech executives think there’s already a shortage of qualified workers. In other words, capable tech employees are in high demand.
So why are so many women leaving the tech industry? Women were greatly outnumbered in the tech field to begin with. Even major companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple reported that men outnumbered women (at least) 4 to 1 in tech departments. Now, even more women are leaving their highly profitable jobs for preventable, fixable reasons.
Some reported feeling like their work environments were “hostile,” male-centered and isolating. Others felt like they were discriminated against due to preconceived notions regarding their gender, age and lifestyle choices — especially about marriage and motherhood. Discrimination often led to them being overlooked for special projects and promotions.
Motherhood and rigid job structures were other major complaints. In one survey, more than 10 percent of respondents cited poor maternity leave policies as a major factor for leaving their jobs. Others said their work environment didn’t support their parenting responsibilities and that their salaries couldn’t cover child care costs.
In a time of remarkable growth, managers in tech simply can’t afford to keep losing — or not hiring — female employees. They must take steps to make their work environments more welcoming and unbiased toward women or risk not having the talent to get the job done.
Employers need to make women in tech feel supported from day one. But to achieve this, they have to consciously create a culture that embraces and supports women at every stage of their professional and personal lives.
1. Encourage diversity.
A successful business thrives on diversity: different voices and different skill sets working together harmoniously. Women add a crucial element of diversity to the workforce that shouldn’t be disregarded. Employers are responsible for ensuring their company culture never muffles diverse voices or ideas.
2. Reward employees based on fair, transparent performance goals.
Eliminate questions of bias or unfair treatment by having clearly outlined and accessible performance metrics. Employees should know what it takes to be rewarded or advance in their careers. The same rules and standards need to apply to every employee; female workers shouldn’t feel like they have to be aggressive or work extra hard to earn recognition. Incorporating a real-time performance dashboard into company operating systems is a great way to create transparency around personal and company-wide performance.
3. Invite feedback.
Part of keeping employees happy is listening and responding to feedback. Create an environment where employees feel safe voicing concerns, and respect what they have to say. If they feel heard, they’ll be more loyal.
4. Create a truly flexible work environment.
Employers making women and men with families feel respected and supported is vital. Making their workdays too rigid can inadvertently force them out of the company. Instead, allow employees to set their workdays around their parental responsibilities — as long as they’re still producing results.
5. Create a female-friendly workplace.
Hiring one woman and expecting her to fit in and solve a company’s diversity problems is simply not enough. Employers need to make the work environment safe and comfortable for women by eliminating preconceived notions, forbidding sexist language and behavior, hiring multiple women at once and establishing a clear sexual harassment policy.
As the tech field continues to grow, filling all the vacancies will be difficult. Managers will need to not only snatch up every qualified candidate they can find — regardless of gender, age or race — but also hold onto the workers they currently have. To stop the droves of female employees leaving tech jobs, leaders need to focus on making the industry more fair, flexible and female friendly.
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