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In the climb up the corporate ladder, women remain underrepresented. McKinsey data finds that women comprise less than 25% of executive-level positions and women of color account for only 4% of executive-level positions. However, this adversity extends past the C-suite — industries such as technology are dominated by men, with women making up only a quarter of the tech workforce.
With American Business Women’s Day just behind us, tech companies of all sizes are expressing their commitment to gender equality in the workplace — and one of the best ways to drive change is to listen and learn from women who have broken through the glass ceiling. Here, I’ll use my experience as a working woman and working mother to share three ways tech companies can advance more women in the technology sector.
Launch mentorship and education programs that empower women
Since women are remarkably underrepresented in tech, it can be difficult for them to envision a successful career in the industry. Organizations must help create a sense of belonging in the workplace and they can start by implementing mentorship programs. Connecting women in junior-level roles with women and men in higher-level executive roles can empower staff to expand their knowledge, grow connections and eliminate boundaries within the workplace.
While both men and women can make excellent mentors, women may further benefit from building relationships with other women at work. For example, I was able to ask one of my mentors, also a working mother, specifics about navigating motherhood and a career. She provided me with honest answers to my questions, helping me strategize and prioritize tasks to meet the overall needs of the business while taking time for my family. If you are a woman in leadership, this might be one of the most important things you can do — I recommend to everyone on my team to find mentors they can trust.
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Tech companies should also look to provide educational resources to help women succeed in the workplace. Leaders can offer seminars, coaching programs and reskilling opportunities to help educate the workforce on key skills and strategies needed for success and career advancement.
If office cultures predominately cater to men, women will likely feel out of place and undervalued. Mentorship and educational programs not only provide an opportunity for learning and career advancement, but can also demonstrate leaders’ interest in women’s careers while cultivating a sense of belonging in the workplace.
Provide inclusive and expansive benefits
In the tech industry, 57% of women have felt burnt out at work, compared to 36% of men, according to Trustradius. Since the pandemic, workers have started to prioritize their mental health and personal lives above work, and companies have developed programs and resources that cater to employee wellness. But, it is vital that women’s unique needs are taken into consideration when implementing these programs.
Trustradius data finds that 78% of women in the tech industry feel they have to work harder than men to prove themselves. So, it makes sense why 33% of women have recently taken time off of work to prioritize their mental health. It is imperative that companies offer equal programs and resources that cater to mental health, employee appreciation and education to help women feel valued and empowered at work.
Inclusive benefits must extend beyond mental health benefits. For working parents, equity in parental leave has a significant impact on women’s mental health and is one of the most crucial benefits for parents as a whole. When companies offer contrasting parental leave options for each parent, the results only exacerbate outdated notions of parental responsibilities. Companies must reevaluate their parental leave programs and incorporate equal leave for both parents, to allow partners an equal share in parental responsibilities.
Offer flexible workplace policies
Workers are no longer willing to be part of a company that ignores (or rescinds policies based on) the changes brought on by the pandemic, such as working from home and flexible schedules. In fact, Flexjobs data finds that 60% of women say that if their company forces them back into the office full time, they will look for opportunities elsewhere.
Even so, Deloitte data found that more than half of women in tech are expected to change jobs as a result of inadequate work-life balance — and New View Strategies data finds that most have seen their workload significantly increase since the pandemic. Employees are increasingly valuing flexibility and autonomy over their schedules, and this is particularly true for working moms.
For example, I hired a senior product manager part-time as she was looking to return to full-time employment while balancing parenthood of two teenage boys and her passion for competitive track coaching. After a while, she moved into a full-time role and continued to excel professionally as she drove great outcomes for our business. Had I not been flexible in my approach, I would have missed out on this incredible talent.
Tech companies must not only be open and transparent in talking about the challenges that working moms face but, more importantly, they must offer greater flexibility so that they do not lose out on valuable talent. While flexible workplace policies help women succeed in their personal and professional lives, expanding the talent search to include more women in the hiring pipeline is also helpful.
In recent years, there has been much progress for women in the workforce. Today, there are now 41 women-led Fortune 500 companies, compared to just two in 2000. But, as companies celebrate this progress, it is an important time to reassess whether companies are cultivating a successful workplace that empowers and advances women. By implementing mentorship programs, providing inclusive benefits and offering flexible workplace environments, companies can help their current employees succeed and attract new and valuable women to their talent pool.
Denise Hemke is chief product officer at Checkr.