A new research report by the Women Tech Council (WTC) examined the gender gap in the tech industry and identified executive engagement, more women in leadership roles, and formal diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs as among the practices that are helping to close it. WTC is a national organization based in Silicon Slopes that focuses on the economic impact of women in technology and increasing their numbers in the industry.
The four practices, which the WTC said are drivers of talent retention and high performance, include: 1) active CEO, executive and leadership support; 2) women currently in leadership roles; 3) community participation in best practices involving culture and inclusion; and 4) formal D&I groups.
“In order for a company to attract and retain the best talent while driving innovation and bottom-line success, inclusive cultures must be rooted in the organization’s DNA,” WTC President Cydni Tetro said in a statement. “By moving beyond single-factored solutions to deeper measures that anchor gender inclusivity firmly into an organization, the practices outlined in this research can help increase the number of women across the technology sector today and ensure that diverse workforces are sustained in the future.”
The WTC identifies ways to close the gender tech gap, but these practices are applicable across industries and disciplines. Without CEO and senior management’s buy-in, change that would bring equal opportunity for female workers is less sustainable. Pressure on organizations for positive workplace reform often comes from employees, sometimes through walkouts, strikes or even lawsuits, but leadership’s support is what drives long-term transformation.
A culture of inclusion, led and built by HR, is critical in work environments, especially those that struggle with attracting, hiring and retaining women in leadership roles. A new IBM Institute for Business Value study found that women make up just 18% of leadership positions — even though they comprise more than 51% of the world’s population. The report further projects that, at this current rate of change, the gender gap between women and men won’t close before 2073.
Employers can’t afford to wait more than 50 years to close the gender leadership gap. They stand to lose out on the benefits that a diverse workforce brings organizations, the most notable including a higher rate of return on investment and increases in revenue share. Employers can commit to D&I initiatives now and adopt measures to remove barriers to women’s progress. Leaders tend to underestimate the barriers in recruiting, retaining and advancing women and minority employees; thinking strategically and listening to those groups can help a company make meaningful changes.