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Women are underrepresented when it comes to climbing the career ladder. McKinsey data shows that women make up less than 25% of executive-level positions and women of color make up just 4% of executive-level positions. However, these adversities extend beyond the C-suite — industries like tech are male-dominated, with women making up just a quarter of the tech workforce.
With American Business Women’s Day just behind us, tech companies of all sizes are demonstrating 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 are making the transparent breached the ceiling. Here, I’ll use my experience as a working woman and working mother to share three ways tech companies can empower more women in tech.
Launch mentoring and education programs that empower women
Because women are remarkably underrepresented in tech, it can be difficult for them to envision a successful career in the industry. Organizations need to help create a sense of belonging in the workplace and they can start implementing mentoring programs. Connecting women in junior level roles to women and Men in senior leadership positions can empower employees to expand their knowledge, build connections and break down boundaries in the workplace.
While both men and women can make excellent mentors, women can also benefit from forming relationships with other women at work. For example, I was able to ask one of my mentors, who is also a working mother, for details about motherhood and careers. She gave me honest answers to my questions and helped me plan and prioritize tasks to meet the overall needs of the company while making time for my family. If you are a woman in leadership positions, this could be one of the most important things you can do – I encourage everyone on my team to find mentors they can trust.
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Tech companies should also seek to provide educational resources to help women succeed in the workplace. Leaders may offer seminars, coaching programs, and retraining opportunities to educate the workforce on the key skills and strategies needed for success and career advancement.
When office cultures are predominantly male-centric, women are likely to feel out of place and undervalued. Mentoring and education programs not only provide opportunities for learning and career advancement, but can also demonstrate leaders’ interest in women’s careers while fostering a sense of belonging in the workplace.
Provide comprehensive and far-reaching benefits
In the tech industry, 57% of women feel burned out at work, compared to 36% of men, according to Trustradius. Since the pandemic, workers have begun to prioritize their mental health and personal lives over work, and companies have developed programs and resources focused on employee well-being. However, when implementing these programmes, it is crucial that the special needs of women are taken into account.
Trustradius data shows that 78% of women in tech feel they have to work harder than men to prove themselves. So it makes sense why 33% of women have recently taken time off from work to prioritize their mental health. It is imperative that companies provide equivalent programs and resources that address employee mental health, appreciation and education to help women feel valued and empowered at work.
Inclusive services must go beyond mental health services. For working parents, equitable parental leave has a significant impact on women’s mental health and is one of the top benefits for parents overall. When companies offer different parental leave options for each parent, the results only reinforce outdated notions of parental responsibility. Businesses need to reevaluate their parental leave programs and include equal leave for both parents to allow partners an equal share of parenting responsibilities.
Offer flexible workplace policies
Workers are no longer willing to be part of a company that ignores (or removes policies based on) the changes caused by the pandemic, such as working from home and flexible working hours. In fact, Flexjobs data shows that 60% of women say they will look elsewhere for opportunities if their company forces them back into the office full-time.
Despite this, data from Deloitte revealed that more than half of women in tech are expected to change jobs due to poor work-life balance – and data from New View Strategies shows that the workloads of most have declined significantly since the pandemic has increased. Workers increasingly value flexibility and autonomy over their working hours, and this is particularly true for working mothers.
For example, I hired a part-time Senior Product Manager as she was looking for full-time employment while also balancing parenting of two teenage boys and her passion for competitive training at the racetrack. After a while, she transitioned to a full-time position and continued to excel professionally by delivering great results for our company. Had I not been flexible in my approach, I would have missed this incredible talent.
Not only do tech companies need to be open and transparent about the challenges working moms face, but most importantly, they need to offer more flexibility so they don’t lose valuable talent. While flexible workplace policies help women thrive in their personal and professional lives, expanding talent search to include more women in the hiring pipeline is also helpful.
A lot has happened for women in the world of work in recent years. Today there are 41 women-led Fortune 500 companies, compared to just two in 2000. But as companies celebrate this advancement, it’s an important time to reconsider whether companies are creating a successful workplace that empowers and nurtures women . By implementing mentoring programs, providing inclusive benefits, and offering flexible work environments, companies can help their current workforce thrive and attract new and valuable women to their talent pool.
Denise Hemke is Checkr’s Chief Product Officer.
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