The tech industry has a reputation for being a bit of a boys’ club. It’s no secret that women are especially underrepresented in information technology and computer science. They also frequently face sexism, underpayment, lack of job promotions, and the sense they need to work harder than their male colleagues. Not only is gender equality a moral imperative, but it can reap tangible business benefits, including enhanced performance, improved culture, and increased innovation.
That’s why supporting women in tech is critical. Everyone needs backup sometimes. Heck, Frodo had a whole fellowship helping him. So don’t be afraid to help a female tech hero along on her journey. Supporting her in no way diminishes your own accomplishments.
Whether you’re male, female, or nonbinary, learning how to support women in tech can help your tech company do its best work while being more welcoming. We’ll share easy tips you can apply right away.
The role of women in tech
Women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce. However, the five biggest tech companies (Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft) have a workforce of less than 36% female employees. Around 30% of leadership roles and 24% of tech positions in these giants are held by women. AnitaB.org’s Top Companies for Women Technologists 2021 sheds more light on gender diversity among technologists in the U.S.:
Around 27% of technologists are female
Combined, women who are Black, Latinx, multiracial, Native American, and Pacific Islander make up less than 4% of all technologists in the U.S.
Female representation decreases as career level increases
Representation fell by more than 2% between 2020 and 2021
All this shows that women are woefully underrepresented in tech. And while many in the industry now recognize the problem, it continues to get worse. Thankfully, you can help tackle the issue.
9 simple ways to support women in tech
A few easy methods can help encourage women in tech. While no approach will correct the tech gender gap overnight, anything you do to support women in the field can be a step in the right direction.
These methods to support women in tech can also be used to support other underrepresented groups, including anyone historically marginalized based on race, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender identity, sexuality, immigration status, first language, socioeconomic status, disability, age, and education level.
You’ll never find a solution if you don’t see a problem. Humans are naturally prone to unconscious biases, which are stereotypes that we’re unaware we have. These views can shape how we treat each other. Unconscious bias is a lot like a slow water leak. If there are a few drips here and there, you might not notice. But over time, the effects can accumulate until they’re impossible to ignore. Understanding bias and reflecting on our own underlying assumptions can help create a more hospitable environment for women.
Unconscious bias training aims to tackle biased thinking head-on. Learning resources are available at all price points (including free options), so any company can educate its workforce. Unconscious bias training is especially valuable for hiring managers since their beliefs can shape who gets the job.
Use inclusive language
Gendered language is deeply engrained in our vocabulary, but it’s worth the effort to weed it out. For instance, terms like “chairman” and “businessman” can seem exclusionary. Instead, consider using “chair” and “business professional.”
While these differences may seem minor, they can make a huge impact. A report by Appcast found that job postings with gender-neutral language received 29% more applications. One study even suggests that if males use gender-neutral language, it may promote more favorable attitudes toward women and LGBT individuals.
Don’t hesitate to point out if a colleague has done a great job. At the same time, don’t be afraid to acknowledge your own achievements. It’s not bragging unless you make it bragging. Just stick to the facts, give credit where it’s due, and avoid belittling others. Everyone can bask in their glory together.
Provide continuing education
Technology changes at a breakneck speed, so ongoing training is critical. Don’t get us wrong: You should support professional development for all your employees — not just women. However, it can be particularly valuable for companies looking to close the gender gap.
Women often feel less confident in their computer skills. Their own self-doubt may hold them back from pursuing a leadership role, or it may even encourage them to look for work in another field. Training can help build confidence, making women feel like they’re truly good at their jobs. In turn, this can help with retention and advancement.
Additionally, on-the-job training for women interested in tech roles can help close the digital skills gap. By 2030, skill shortages may result in 85 million unfilled jobs around the world. Women are a massive untapped resource. Less than 30% of women even consider a tech career compared to over 60% of men. Training programs can help women who hadn’t previously seen a tech role as an option to pivot their careers.
Promote a supportive culture
An inclusive workplace culture can make the office a friendlier place for everyone. Developing such a culture often starts at the top. Senior leaders must display inclusive behavior themselves, including showing empathy, delegating opportunities fairly, communicating inclusively, encouraging open dialogue, and supporting the growth of employees. Other company-wide methods of cultivating an inclusive culture include:
Making inclusion a core value
Providing DEI training
Promoting employee resource groups (ERGs)
Encouraging employee-driven events
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtually all employees value flexibility. Allowing employees to shift their work schedules, work from home, and take time off as needed can help improve their work-life balance and your retention rates. While most employees won’t argue against a more flexible working environment, it’s often most important for women.
Unpaid caregiving, whether for children or older adults, disproportionately falls on women. In 2020, more than 65 million women provided unpaid care. Most of these caregivers are working women, and this extra labor can hold back their career aspirations. A workplace with greater flexibility makes it easier for women to fulfill both their career and personal commitments.
Put women in leadership roles
While 82% of Americans agree that women should enjoy the same opportunities for career advancement, just 34% feel their workplace makes it a high priority to have women in leadership roles.
A female leader can be invaluable in several regards:
Provide a role model for other women
Promote more inclusive policies
Bring new perspectives
Develop a support network
Mentorships and ERGs can serve a similar function, giving women an opportunity to share their knowledge and help each other.
Amplify female voices
Allyship is critical to equity. All too often, women are overlooked or ignored. When we see that happening, any of us can step up to amplify their voices.
Women in the Obama administration are credited with pioneering the amplification technique. They often weren’t invited to important meetings. Even when they got a seat at the table, they struggled to be heard. That’s where amplification came to the rescue. When a woman raised a good point that many ignored, other women at the table would repeat it and credit its author. This redirected attention to the idea and prevented others from later claiming it as their own.
While the strategy was originally developed as a way for women to support other women, anyone can use it to help an underappreciated colleague who deserves more recognition.
Supporting women in tech doesn’t require doing anything epic, like hosting a private Harry Styles concert. (Although, many of us won’t complain if you do.) The best ways to empower women in the tech field are actually simple and affordable.
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Part writer, part sysadmin fangirl, Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.