Women In Technology: Finding The Missing Link

by Sohini Bagchi    Nov 20, 2015

superwomen

The topic on woman in technology has been debated and discussed for years, to an extent that you might get bored and sick of it, but the numbers refuse to budge. The Silicon Valley is still waiting for its female Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. And therefore, there’s need for greater dialogues - in other words, a lot more needs to be done in this space.

A recent discussion on Women in IT over breakfast at the CA World 2015, highlights some pertinent issues on women in tech industry and looks at ways to fill in the gap.

 Lauren Flaherty, CMO of CA Technologies, who moderated the session, said that with the emergence of women-centric workshops, programs, and social platforms, the gender conversations are turning out to be a productive dialogue. “However, technology is still perceived as a male dominated field and there needs to be a cultural shift to correct this imbalance,” she said.

The panel comprising five women executives agreed that the number of women chasing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is still relatively less, even though the tide is changing as several big and small sized tech companies and even governments are trying to address the gap.

Read more: Gender-Gap In IT Industry Needs Greater Attention

Talking of cultural changes, it has been observed that the way men and women often perceive risks, is also different. “In many cases women are forced towards less risk, especially when large companies offer them less risky opportunities with more financial stability,” said Christine Goldberg, Partner, PwC.

However, several studies have revealed that gender and ethnic diversity in a workplace strengthens decision-making, and make diverse teams more innovative. 

“There clearly has to be a change in mindset, which should start from the hiring process, and should be followed by proper guidance mentoring and benefits,” said Talia Milgrom-Elcott, co-founder, 100Kin10, a network that aims to train 100,000 quality STEM teachers to educate the next generation of innovators.

The panellists also agreed that the relatively low amount of qualified women in the industry has also got to do with early cultural learning. “The gender gap in mathematics and science is still visible, with the general notion that women should go into humanities and men into the more technical fields. This amounts to lesser number of women in STEM college courses, and the jobs as well,” explained  Telle Whitney, CEO and President of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, who added that encouraging more women into STEM courses would indeed revolutionize the industry.

While there is no magic bullet to bridge the diversity gap, women panellists agreed that to grow the next generation of tech leaders, technology education must start as early as junior or middle school, they said, adding that girls, especially, need to be kept engaged to help address today’s tech gender gap.

At the same time, skills such as identifying and collaborating with their peers in the business have mostly contributed to their professional advancement, they believe. “The market is ripe to get the millennial engaged because they are interacting with technology all of the time,” said Milgrom-Elcott.

Read more: Why Gender Equality Must Be A Boardroom Issue

Angela Tucci, GM, Agile, CA Technology believes that the ability to deliver results by collaborating with all levels of the organization, including HR, marketing, communications, as well as with vendors, is key. As leaders ascend the management ranks, they must also learn to recognize the right stakeholders with whom to partner key business initiatives.

In this context, managers should also look to encourage the women, such as offering flexibility, maternity policy and give them ample growth opportunities in their career journey.

“Mentoring, and early education are crucial,” said Whitney. She stressed the importance of passing on what they’ve learned to students and exposing children, particularly girls, to technology as early as possible.

While many Silicon Valley companies are attempting to fix their problems through programs and education, what’s important is a greater cultural movement at the fundamental level. The panel concluded that it’s indeed exciting times for women to be in technology, even though there is still a long journey ahead and much progress still needs to be made in order to make a difference.