Building strong technology teams will be at the top of the to-do list for many businesses for the foreseeable future. The tech industry is expected to grow by 19%, adding 3.5 million jobs by 2026, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology. How many of those positions will be filled by women?
Today’s businesses are realizing the value of having a diverse technology team that includes not only people from a multitude of backgrounds and ethnicities, but one that represents women as well. Advanced Resources co-hosted a panel last week in Chicago with TransUnion to shed light on the state of gender equality in the technology industry.
Advanced Resources President Rich Diaz moderated the discussion. The four panelists - all women in technology roles - shared that while as a whole we aren’t quite there yet, there are steps that both men and women can take to help close the gender gap that exists today.
Diversity attracts diversity
Marina Malaguti, director of data engineering at Jellyvision, referenced a 2018 study by McKinsey that proved a correlation between profitability and having diverse executive teams. The women on the panel shared that to attract more women to roles, companies need to demonstrate a commitment to diversity at the highest levels of their organizations, not just in staff positions.
Marcia Peters, vice president of third party risk management at TransUnion, agreed, sharing that it matters where companies are diverse. If a bank boasts 50% diversity but most of those are low-paying branch employees, there’s a disconnect between what they tout and the value they actually place on diversity.
The panelists all agreed that in order to get women in more leadership positions, it’s important to “build the bench” of talent from the ground up and help each other progress through their careers. Corinne Maloof, agile coach at Legacy.com, shared how critical it is to help other women along the way, asking “if I’m not helping others level up, how can I expect others to help me along my journey?”
Why women should consider tech careers
Melody Berry, senior data scientist at TransUnion, touched on the fact that technology is here to stay, and that if women aren’t considering a career in tech, they’re risking getting left behind. Corinne didn’t let a non-traditional career path keep her from the tech industry. She agreed with Melody, sharing that technology is ever present, and that having gender equality ensures that end products are more representative of the people who are actually going to use them.
All of the panelists talked about the importance of speaking up when they experience or see discrimination against women - whether you’re a women yourself or not. Marina shared a personal story about having a male colleague speak up on her behalf during an interview when the candidate was only directing his responses to him. Corinne recalled times when she didn’t speak up for herself or others, but shared that doing so feels good and women shouldn’t see it as being selfish. It’s necessary to get uncomfortable in order to make change.
But it’s not just all about calling out bad behavior or unsupportive colleagues. Melody shared that you must also “speak up” by branding yourself and networking, which can be difficult for women who often undercut their skills and experience. She wished she had spent more time early on promoting herself and her successes. Corinne shared that she proactively asks for feedback about her work and how to advance her career.
Marcia and Marina both encouraged women to put themselves in control of their own career paths. This requires women to speak up and ask to work on projects that will help them advance their skills and fill resume gaps that would otherwise cause them to be overlooked for promotions.
Melody listed the most important theme of her career as emotional intelligence. She shared that specific hard skills will only get you so far as you blaze your own trail in tech as a woman. Inevitably there will be times where you experience sexism or moments of “that didn’t feel right.” By developing the right soft skills, you’re better equipped to handle difficult situations appropriately and in a way that earns you respect.
One audience member asked if emotional intelligence was innate or something that can be developed, and Melody responded that it can definitely be developed. Corinne agreed, sharing that it’s really about believing you can grow as a human.
Mentors and sponsors
Marina shared that she strongly believes in the power of having a coach, or someone who can keep you accountable for your goals and following through on them. The rest of the panelists shared their experiences in finding sponsors, to speak on their behalf and advocate for their careers. Melody gave the advice of reaching out to people who you admire and building a relationship with them. She shared that most people are willing to help with introductions and want to see you succeed.
Our thanks to the panelists and attendees for such an informative, thoughtful discussion on closing the gender gap in the technology field. We’re committed to doing our part to bring attention to such an important topic, through both events like these and by helping our own clients meet their specific diversity hiring goals. Reach out to our team to learn how we can work together.