Five Key Takeaways
- The gender gap has increased since the 1990’s.
- Diversity impacts employee attraction, employee retention, and business financial performance.
- There’s a difference between mentorship and sponsorship – both are crucial for closing the gender gap.
- Both business leaders and individuals need to accept accountability for increasing gender equity in tech.
- Investing in programs that develop untapped talent pools, increasing representation, and encouraging allyship are key actions for tech leaders to take to encourage more women and underrepresented groups of people to pursue careers in tech.
[02:17] John Ragsdale
It’s been about three years since America and the world had an awakening about diversity, and companies began prioritizing DEI policies and hiring, creating DEI boards and more. And now we’re seeing more studies coming out, really giving us data that companies who embrace diversity are seeing financial results.
[02:46] A couple of examples, there’s a McKinsey study showing that companies with more diverse management are 36% more likely to have improved financial performance. A Gallup study found that companies with more diverse workforces had 7% higher employee engagement. And specific to today’s topic, a PWC study found that companies with more women in management positions have customer satisfaction rates that are 5% higher.
[03:14] I’m here in Silicon Valley in Northern California and the gender gap in tech is very real. And I have some sobering numbers here from DataProt that really show the state of the gender gap in tech. Today, only 24% of computing jobs are held by women. The percentage of female STEM graduates is about 19%, which means we don’t have a great pipeline.
[03:42] For female talent coming into the workplace, 20% of women over the age of 35 and tech are still in junior positions, which shows that the progression and talent management and mentoring is not happening. And finally, women leave the tech industry at 40% higher rate than men and, with these numbers, I can’t say that we’re hugely surprised at that.
[04:05] So I’m very happy that you joined us for this very important discussion. We have an amazing panel of women today, both from Tek Experts and from Microsoft. And I’m very pleased to turn things over to our moderator for today. Katie Delgado is Vice President of Engineering for Forbes Media. Katie, welcome and take it away.
[04:30] Katie Delgado
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
[Introductions, see speakers above.]
[06:40] Katie Delgado
As John said, I do want to highlight the staggering statistic that women only hold about 24% of technical roles and, even more staggering, 22% or less are leadership roles. So, with that statistic what impact does the lack of diversity have on the tech industry? And I’d really like to pass it to Aileen first.
[07:05] Aileen Allkins
I would split it into two and say that the first impact we should consider is one of the challenges that all companies are facing right now and that’s the ability to attract technical talent. There’s a global shortage, as we all know, of technical skills. There’re very high numbers of open positions for developers, cyber engineers, AI specialists, and if we don’t have a diverse workforce, we know that it is harder to attract talent when we don’t have a workforce that represents the people applying.
[07:44] And if we think about Gen Z, who are the people that we would be wanting to come into a lot of these tech roles, for them diversity is important. They want to know who they’re going to be working with.
[07:56] A culture of inclusion is very important as well. So, I would say one of the first challenges for companies if they are not focused on diversity is the ability to attract talent. And, given that the women make up 50% of the world’s population and the workforce potential, we’re missing out on enormous talent availability because they just won’t want to join the companies that are not diverse.
[08:25] At the same time, attrition. So, John mentioned the attrition stats and women leaving the tech sector at a much higher rate. Again, when you are in an environment where you’re not feeling aligned with the culture of the organization, it doesn’t feel so inclusive, you don’t feel so well represented.
[08:45] Then again, it’s a contributing factor to attrition. So, I think the first major impact is really around attracting and retaining talent, especially now with the challenges that the world is facing with digital skills gaps.
[08:59] The second one, I won’t repeat some of John’s comments, but it’s the business impact. There’s enough research out there that we will have all read with the statistics on the impact on business performance, the more diverse your organization is. So, there’s two things, I think. Talent, and of course talent is needed for good business performance and proven results on business performance.
[09:24] Katie Delgado
Wonderful. Thank you. And I’ll ask another question to Yolanda. What forms do you think bias typically takes? Are there differences among countries and industries?
[09:35] Yolanda Natal Santos
Yeah, thank you. We’ve already talked about some stats that the sort of touch upon this. We know that gender diversity remains an issue within the tech industry. John alluded to the number of women who are not participating in these tech fields. So, we have enough data that shows that over the course of the last 30 years, we’re seeing less women participating in these technical fields.
[09:43] And then reports by like the National Center for Women in Information Technology also alludes to the idea that even those women who are going into the field are dropping out of the workforce from the technical perspective, going on to other work at an alarming rate.
[10:20] So if we look at it from that perspective, gender bias really comes into the workplace in different ways. It manifests itself in different ways. One of the ways we often talk about is unequal pay. According to Glassdoor, for example, women in the tech field were earning about 75% to 80% of our male counterparts. Women of color particularly suffer the largest pay gap, according to the Adecco Group. Adecco Group also tells us that Native American women, for example, in the US represent about .03% of the workforce in tech, and they are earning about $0.60 on the dollar.
[11:00] Women that identify as Latina or Hispanic, they represent about 1% of the workforce and they’re making $0.57 on the dollar. And then Black women or African American women, according to Adecco, represent about 3% of the workforce in tech and they’re making $0.64 on the dollar.
[11:25] So when we think about equity, when we think about pay, we really need to think about pay equity. That pay inequity is a symptom of a broader problem, and really, to fully understand the picture, employers need to think about not just equal pay for equal work, but the pay gap and how it manifests itself in inequities and hiring, promotion, performance assessments, and as mentioned before, retention as well.
[11:53] Katie Delgado
I believe Savita has a little extra input on this.
[11:54] Savita Bradoo
Thanks for that. Great points Yolanda. I think one of the things that I would say just from my own experience and when I look at my own journey, I started back in the day as a Technical Support Advisor and there was a lot of self-doubt when I started in the tech space. And I think one of the things that I encourage women when I talk to them today is to get out of their own way sometimes and maybe a slightly different perspective, but there is a part of bias which is self-inflicted and we inflict upon ourselves because we don’t see a lot of women role models around us, especially in the tech space. Everyone talked about the statistics.
[12:42] Overall it’s true across all industries and it just gets worse in the tech space. And so, if you are starting out in an environment like that and you don’t see more versions of yourself, you start to doubt yourself that, “Was this the right decision? Am I in the right place? And am I going to be able to be successful, because I just feel like the odd one out.” And we just have to continue to push against the self-inflicted bias that we have as women as well to just push forward and do what we are passionate about.
[13:15] And if tech is what we are passionate about, then not to be intimidated and daunted by an industry which is ever evolving, and it is a very challenging space because you have to continue to keep yourself updated. You must continue to learn, and things are changing at a very fast pace in this industry. So, you can never be in a complacent state. And all of that can become intimidating if you couple that with just everything else that everyone’s talked about which is the whole gender disparity and what we see around us.
[13:51] So I just wanted to put that out there that sometimes we also tend to get in our own way, because we get so threatened with lack of role models.
[14:04] Katie Delgado
Yeah, and I’ll stay with you, Savita, where do the solutions lie? What can businesses do to have a meaningful impact on recruiting and retaining female talent and more specifically [women of color]?
[14:16] Savita Bradoo
Well, there are multiple layers to that, right? I mean you could say it starts from the very early stages of how things are being done in academic space with encouraging more young girls to take on STEM and educate themselves in the space of technology, math and sciences, which can be a good career progression into having a career in the tech space.
[14:42] And then you can argue, you’ve got to then keep women there and ensure that they are further educating themselves and sticking to that, and then all of the usual answers on what would it take to solve this problem? But they’re far from easy because we’ve got to just optimize on creating an environment where you could start your tech career no matter what your background is or what you studied in school, because you can learn all of that.
[15:18] And there is just so much out there in terms of upskilling tech talent, which I know that 15 years ago when I started, wasn’t available, right? So, I think that the opportunities are far more for you to train yourself, upskill yourself, look for opportunities out there that irrespective of what you studied in school or what you what you went to school for may not matter.
[15:42] I think from a leadership perspective the reality is that it is tough to progress because you can start but then as your career’s starting to mound up, so are your personal commitments. I think we’ve heard Indra Nooyi talk about how a woman’s career and personal commitments are in complete conflict because, as you’re starting to get into middle management, it’s also the time when you want to have kids and then you have ageing parents.
[16:13] So it’s not just again specific to the tech space, I would say as leaders we just have to be very honed into the talent that we have, how we’re attracting talent and how we’re keeping them, and the ways in which we can give women more opportunities to balance their personal commitments and what comes with the tech space. I think that’s incredibly important.
[16:39] Katie Delgado
Yes, absolutely. And I want to turn it over to Yolanda and especially get your perspective on WOC or women of color. What can businesses do to have that meaningful impact for women of color?
[16:51] Yolanda Natal Santos
Yeah. So, I’d like to start by saying I think for us to truly be successful in the space, we have got to stop thinking of diversity as a one-time campaign, a check and done. Instead, diversity requires continuous work and development, and cultivation of these programs. Programs like Microsoft Leap.
[17:12] I know I’m biased, but programs like Microsoft Leap were developed in part to address some of these issues and to create a more inclusive workforce. We bring talent not just for Microsoft, but for the tech ecosystem. That’s the great partnership that we’ve built with Tek Experts. Where we brought talent to Nigeria, Rwanda, Bulgaria. And Tek and Microsoft Leap as a whole, globally we enjoy a conversion of 98 percent. 98% of our candidates are gainfully employed in the tech industry.
[17:49] We’ve redefined where great talent looks, what it looks like and where it comes from. Some of our candidates do not have a college degree. Tech may be a second career for them or, for individuals like myself, we have a gap because we’re returning parents.
[18:07] That’s an untapped talent market that we haven’t looked into and with partnerships like Tek Experts, we’re bringing that talent to the tech ecosystem, not just to Microsoft. But to address some of the specific questions you were asked, we need to also think about what we’re doing in the pipeline we talked about a little bit. When we are interviewing candidates, we need to make sure that those in the interview loop represent the diversity that we want.
[18:39] We need to make sure that we have accountability at the executive level. And then we need to make sure that we have a way of measuring diversity in a more objective way and that it’s tied to rewards and performance, because that’s sometimes how we’re going to get the needle to move. So, it’s thinking of it holistically and not just from a perspective like a spreadsheet where it’s checked and done but thinking through every corporate decision that we’re making because there’s enough data that correlates the success of women and underrepresented people as offering a better financial outcome for the company.
[19:29] Again, it’s a holistic approach to it and particularly when it comes to women of color. So, if you think of the number of women overall represented in tech, the number of women of color are even smaller than the overall number of women who are in tech. So, it becomes even more of a dire situation. Thank you.
[19:54] Katie Delgado
Aileen, I wanted to ask you, when talking about mentorship and sponsorship, those are different things, right? Why are they different? How are they different? And how do they play a role in increasing the number of female leaders in tech?
[20:08] Aileen Allkins
I think, first of all, if I take mentorship at many companies, we’ve all been involved in mentorship programs that have been created, particularly focusing on mentoring new women into an organization or young talent in an organization. So, for me, mentoring is very much about helping people through their career with how to approach things. I think of that more as a how, as a sort of guide for how to approach things, how to think about things and that’s where a lot of companies have placed their attentions.
[20:44] Now sponsorship, I think less companies focus on sponsorship as a program and the way I think of sponsorship when somebody sponsors you, first, you can’t ask somebody to be your sponsor. You can ask somebody to be your mentor. But a sponsor is somebody who trusts you, who feels confident in recommending you because they believe that you’re going to do a good job. They believe that you will represent well their referral of you. So, a sponsor for me is somebody who opens the door for you. They’ll tell people about you when they know of opportunities, they will introduce you to people where there are opportunities.
[21:28] Whereas a mentor helps you with what to do once you’ve got through the door. So, a sponsor opens the door, and a mentor helps you with what you do once that door is open. I think they’re both very important because, as I said, mentoring is really focusing more on helping people with the how, but without the sponsorship, the opportunities don’t often get opened.
[21:50] We all know that when positions become available, very often they’re filled even before they’re posted. So even once they’re posted and people apply, preferred candidates are already there. And so, because we tend to hire people like us and because of the lack of women in tech positions, we’re just sort of continuing this challenge of not having enough women coming into the position.
[22:16] So sponsorship is crucial for getting women sponsored into positions not just from male colleagues, but from other colleagues who are aware of the roles and will refer them, introduce them, make recommendations for them. But I don’t think we do enough on sponsorship programs, we tend to focus more on just the mentoring part of it.
[22:29] Katie Delgado
Yolanda, I’d love to hear your input on this one as well. As far as the role of mentorship and sponsorship play, and how they make an impact?
[22:46] Yolanda Natal Santos
Yeah, I agree. And going back, I do see a mentor, and that’s a relationship that you have with a protege or a mentee, this individual, as Aileen mentioned, answers questions, might help you strategize your career, and help develop that next move. But a sponsor is a person who promotes you as the mentee to others to help advance your career into others rather than a one-on-one relationship.
[23:15] There’s a really cool – it’s very short but very powerful – Ted Talk by Carla Harris that talks about sponsorship as the most critical relationship in your career. That’s pretty powerful. So, when thinking about the sponsor, we need to make sure that that person obviously has your best interest at heart. She also advises us to make sure that this individual has the power to get it done. Whatever it looks like for you, the individual, the sponsor must have that power, that respect, that mutual respect from their colleagues to get things done behind closed doors.
[24:00] If I may, much like that famous song brought from the Broadway play Hamilton, that sponsor must be in the room when it happens in order to advocate for you for that next promotion, for that next project, for that next job, whatever that might be. And so, while these two rules are very important in your career, you need to understand that they serve different purposes and achieve different goals.
[24:27] Katie Delgado
And I’d like to add to that one actually. The question that comes to my mind when I’m looking at this mentorship versus sponsorship, you’re probably thinking, “How do I do that?” You know, “How do I get a mentor? How do I get a sponsor?” So, a good example, I had someone on my team the other day, a female on my team reached out and said, “I’m sure you have a lot of people that you’re probably sponsoring right now, but I would love to work with you.” And I said, “Actually no one has ever asked me that, not once”. So, it worked out wonderfully.
[24:56] So ask that question if you’re interested because a lot of people assume that someone doesn’t have the time or that they’re not interested or it’s a small item for them, but they might enjoy it. They probably have the time and you’d probably be the only one that asked. So, you hook yourself up.
[25:00] Yolanda Natal Santos
And if I may add, again, going back to Carla Harris and her Ted Talk, she talks about when selecting the sponsor to think about two things, and I thought it was pretty important. She talks about performance currency and that, in essence, is our deliverable, what we’re asked to do and adding a little bit more to that because we want to raise our level of visibility. We want our colleagues to know our body of work. Then she talks about relationship currency, and that’s really an investment in the people in your environment and around you because it’s important for them to understand your body of work.
[25:48] So she encourages us to engage and give an opportunity for others to build that trust with you and reliability. So much like what you said, often I don’t think of the sponsors as somebody I asked. But I have. I have asked and I did look for an individual who I thought had that power, had that vested interest in my career to be that sponsor in the room. So, you don’t know until you ask.
[26:19] Katie Delgado
Absolutely. And Savita, I think you had something to add.
[26:26] Savita Bradoo
I was looking at the question that we had in the chat from Jessica.
Q1: Jessica: As a woman in tech, I often feel like a token figure – I have plenty of ideas, founded in support from other divisions, that should be implemented but am constantly getting pats on the head and told to stand down because I don’t understand the politics of the company. I do – I’m connected with key stakeholders across the company who believe the politics is being brewed up by my division. Every time I try to step up and wear my manager title by helping other colleagues, I’m told I’m in the wrong and shoved to the back of the room. How do I combat this besides leaving this company?
[26:31] Savita Bradoo
The only thing that I would say, Jessica, on the question that you asked is I felt exactly like that multiple times in my career. And I’m pretty sure that I will continue to be in the same space in the future as well, where there are going to be moments where you feel that your ideas are shut down or you’re not getting your voice heard, or your ideas are just not getting the credibility that they deserve. Leaving an organization is definitely not the answer, because you’re going to continue to find an environment like that everywhere in pockets, no organization is immune to that.
[27:13] So my only guidance there would be that you must continue to focus on what your strengths are, what you’re good at, and continue to articulate your ideas in a way that they are going to be heard. So, understand the dynamics of who the decision makers are, who the influencers are, and if you can present what you’re presenting with facts and data, very quickly you’ll realize that people are going to start paying attention.
[27:44] The only thing that I will say is that it’s important to have a lot of resilience in this environment. Tech is an extremely competitive space and because it is also very male dominated, there is a long way to go before you’re going to see just naturally people getting inclined to just behaving in a different way. So, we just must continue to keep pushing boundaries and keep making our presence felt in a conducive manner, in a respectful manner but at the same time in an assertive manner.
[28:21] So, that’s probably the only guidance that I would have from my own experience. There are more times I think that I’ve been shut down than been heard and that’s absolutely okay because it doesn’t discourage me from continuing to just move on and do what needs to be done.
[28:54] Katie Delgado
While I have you Savita, the next question is for you. We’re just wondering how much of a solution as far as mentorship/sponsorship, I think we’re still talking about that a bit, but as a whole, within the tech industry how much of the solution lies with business leaders and how much of it should be an individual contributor’s responsibility?
[29:15] Savita Bradoo
It’s a combination of both if you ask me. But what I will say there is a bigger responsibility that lies with the leaders to show up, be, and do better. Especially when that irrespective of gender there is disparity and there is work that needs to be done to continue to bridge that gap. All leaders have to take that personal responsibility and accountability to create an environment of better sponsorship and better mentorship, and drive that in and outside of their environment within their network so that we can continue to bridge that gap faster.
[30:02] The individual part of this to me is just as critical because, unless you are driven and inspired to just continue to push through, it’s going to be very difficult for you to find the right sponsor and the right mentorship. So, you have to take accountability for your career. You must own it, own your space, continue to push that forward, and not wait for anybody to do that for you. If you do find great sponsors and mentors who will do that for you, that’s great, but that shouldn’t be the mindset should be that, and this is just me personally, that you’re enough and lean in and help more people around you and with that attitude you will definitely get noticed, right?
[30:54] So irrespective of what role, what position you’re in, if you are leaning in and helping people around you, you will get more promoters and supporters and sponsors and mentors to help you. There are a lot of good people who want to see a lot of women successful and succeed in the tech space. So, you have to believe that there is always space for more. That’s what I would say.
[31:21] Katie Delgado
Yes, thank you. And I’ll ask the question to Aileen, what can businesses hope to gain by increasing the number of women in tech roles?
[31:31] Aileen Allkins
Honestly, I think I’m going to take us back to the beginning with John’s comments and my answers to the first questions, which is really around if you connect the ability to attract and retain talent, to grow talent and given that when women, as I said, are 50% of the world’s population there’s a great abundance of talent that is not being leveraged and utilized in the best possible way and the direct connection that all of the research shows with more diverse organizations in terms of business performance. So, I think it’s that connecting the dots, attract more women, retain more women and achieve better business performance. What could be better?
[32:21] Katie Delgado
Definitely. And Yolanda, do you have anything to add on that one?
[32:24]Yolanda Natal Santos
I’m reemphasizing what’s already been said by both John and Aileen. I’m always taken back from when I think about the abundance of research that shows that companies are simply more profitable when they have more women in the C suites. Yet, we still have a gender gap in technology. Just adding some data here, Forbes had an article on how diversity generates more revenue. They compared companies and found that the higher gender diversities truly just outperformed, on average, the less diverse companies over a period of five years.
[32:59] Boston Consulting Group, partnering with the Technical University of Munich, for example, conducted a study looking at the relationship between diversity and management. To no surprise, at least on my side, the results showed that increased diversity and leadership, which we mentioned earlier, leads to more innovative and improved financial performance in both developing and developed countries.
[33:26] MIT also talked about gender diversity and how it impacted their better for their bottom lines. Who doesn’t really want that, especially right now. But if all of that weren’t compelling enough, which is back to what Aileen has said, we know that in the entire tech ecosystem there’s a tech crisis that requires greater participation from women and underrepresented groups. Women represent nearly 50% of the global population so if we don’t hire, if we don’t coach, if we don’t promote, we are leaving a large pool of untapped talent on the table. So, I’ll get off my soapbox, but that’s what I know.
[34:07] Katie Delgado
We like you on your soapbox! So then while I have you, in your view, what is the single most important action that a business can take to support females?
[34:16] Yolanda Natal Santos
I think it goes back to something I had said earlier, if we are going to be successful in this space we have got to stop thinking of diversity and inclusion as a one-time campaign. We need to continue to invest in and develop programs. We need to continue to cultivate this program, programs like Microsoft Leap and others who bring in this untapped talent. We need to make it a part of every decision that we make across the workforce, thinking about how we can become more inclusive.
[34:52] And we know, as we’ve said and as the data shows, that by increasing diversity, tech companies are building products for a diverse population. So, it simply makes sense to me that we have a representative workforce to help build better products to achieve that corporate financial goal.
[34:09] Katie Delgado
Absolutely. And we’re running out of time, but if I could get a quick answer from Savita and Aileen, it would be wonderful. So just what is the single most important action to you, Savita, the businesses can take to support women?
[35:24] Savita Bradoo
We should, we should focus on hiring as many inclusive men as possible, and rally to change the thought process of ones that are not because they’re the ones that are going to help us make the change that we want to see.
[35:40] And of course, if you are a woman in the tech space it should be personal to you to make sure that you are rallying around female employees and being the role model and helping women around you grow and develop. That’s what I would say.
[35:55] Katie Delgado
Thank you. And Aileen, what’s your opinion?
[35:58] Aileen Allkins
Trying to come up with a different answer that isn’t run all the programs and do all the things that we’ve talked about. So, I would say an answer that I gave on a previous panel. Let’s encourage more fathers of daughters to be mentors and coaches for women in the workforce, because then it’s very personal. They can understand what their daughters are going to be facing and it gives them a personal reason to participate.
[36:26] Katie Delgado
That’s a fantastic point. Well, thank you everyone for the fantastic answers.
Q2: Rory: Hello! I work with a federally funded workforce development program, through which we can award job-training grants to individuals who need to gain skills and obtain credentials to be more competitive to return to work (usually after a layoff). We strongly encourage women to consider IT. My question is: Do you know of any associations, organizations, etc. that offer mentoring and /or career coaching to help guide women in their entering and continuing on the career path to IT?
[37:31] Aileen Allkins
Well, amazingly this question could have been written by me. So, we have a sister company to Tek Experts which is called elev8 and elev8 is a digital skilling company. Rory, just to give you an example of one of the programs we work on and it’s an employability program. We’re currently running it in Costa Rica. It’s funded by the government. It’s for unemployed people, particularly focused on women, and it is a four-month program that teaches them technical skills.
[38:09] Some of it is AWS-sponsored content, some of it is Microsoft-sponsored content and at the end of this program we’re helping these ladies, and men as well although it’s a high portion of women, with career coaches and conversations with potential employers in the country. And it’s an example of programs that we run at elev8 for employability with a particular focus on helping people find jobs in the IT sector at the end of the program.
[38:42] So yes, I do know of an organization that does that and it’s called elev8, and we’d be very happy to have a conversation with you.
Q3: Coamin: What are some of the best practices or initiatives that can be run by companies to mitigate gender biases?
[39:07] Yolanda Natal Santos
Some of the data that I’ve run across is examining, for example, the recruitment process. We know that, for example, women tend to not apply for jobs if we don’t meet 100% of the requirements. So, look at that job description, that JD, and see if there’s a gender bias naturally in it that you can eliminate to encourage more women to apply.
[39:37] And then the second thing is, who is on your interview loop? We want to make sure that we encourage both the allies and the females and women to be part of that interview loop because again, we want to have that diversity in the interview loop that we desire from our general workforce.
[39:53] And then the third thing, which I mentioned earlier was really accountability, accountability at an executive level, making sure that we can measure the success of some of these practices to make sure that they are gaining the results that we want in a way that’s meaningful. We’re not talking about 1%, we’re talking meaningful employment and how it’s going to make a difference across the board. Hope that helps.
Tek Experts is a leading global provider of technical talent solutions and a trusted partner to some of the world’s biggest brands. They help enterprises deliver exceptional customer experiences and results at scale.
Their solutions cover the full customer life cycle, including specialized technical support services, customer success offerings to help drive annual recurring revenue, and tech talent sourcing – providing quick access to skilled talent to build technical teams.
They keep a constant focus on representation at their sites across the globe and they have a lot of expertise on the gender gap in tech.