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Women continue to climb the corporate ladder under-represented. McKinsey data shows that women have less than 25% of executive-level positions and women of color account for only 4% of executive-level positions. However, this adversity extends beyond the C-suite – industries such as technology are dominated by men, with only women a quarter of the technical workforce.
With American Business Women’s Day just behind us, tech companies of all sizes are showing their commitment to gender equality in the workplace — and one of the best ways to effect change is to listen to and learn from women who have broken through the glass ceiling. Here, I’ll use my experience as a working woman and working mom to share three ways tech companies can help more women in the tech industry.
Start mentorship and education programs that empower women
Since women are remarkably underrepresented in technology, it can be difficult for them to envision a successful career in the industry. Organizations should help create a sense of belonging in the workplace and they can start implementing mentoring programs. Connecting women in junior positions with women and men in senior leadership roles can empower staff to expand their knowledge, make connections, and eliminate borders within the workplace.
While both men and women can be excellent mentors, women can further benefit from building relationships with other women at work. For example, I was able to ask one of my mentors, also a working mom, about navigating motherhood and a career. She gave me honest answers to my questions, helped me strategize and prioritize tasks to meet the general needs of the company, while making time for my family. If you’re a woman in leadership, this is arguably one of the most important things you can do – I encourage everyone on my team to find mentors they can trust.
Technology companies should also look for educational resources to help women succeed in the workplace. Executives can offer seminars, coaching programs, and retraining opportunities to help staff teach key skills and strategies needed for success and career advancement.
If office cultures are primarily geared towards men, women are likely to feel out of place and undervalued. Mentoring and educational programs not only provide an opportunity for learning and career advancement, but can also demonstrate leaders’ interest in women’s careers while cultivating a sense of belonging in the workplace.
Provide inclusive and comprehensive benefits
In the tech industry, 57% of women feeling 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 that address employee well-being. But it is vital that the unique needs of women are taken into account in implementing these programs.
Trustradius data shows that 78% of women in the tech industry believe 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 equal programs and resources focused on mental health, employee appreciation and education to help women feel valued and empowered at work.
Inclusive benefits must extend beyond mental health benefits. For working parents, equality in parental leave has a significant impact on women’s mental health and is one of the most crucial benefits for parents as a whole. When companies offer different parental leave options for each parent, the results only exacerbate outdated views on parental responsibilities. Companies should re-evaluate their parental leave programs and include equal leave for both parents so that partners have an equal share of parental responsibilities.
Offer a flexible workplace policy
Employees are no longer willing to be part of a company that is ignoring the changes (or withdrawing policies based on) the changes brought about by the pandemic, such as working from home and flexible schedules. In fact, data from Flexjobs shows that: 60% of women say that if their company forces them back into the office full-time, they will look for opportunities elsewhere.
Still, Deloitte’s data found that: more than half of the women in tech they are expected to change jobs due to an inadequate work-life balance – and data from New View Strategies shows that: most have seen their workload increase significantly since the pandemic. Employees increasingly value flexibility and autonomy over their schedules, and this is especially true for working mothers.
For example, I hired a senior product manager part-time because she was looking for a full-time job while balancing parenting two teenage boys with her passion for competitive job coaching. After a while, she transitioned into a full-time role and continued to excel professionally while achieving great results for our company. If I hadn’t been flexible in my approach, I would have missed out on this incredible talent.
Tech companies not only need to be open and transparent in talking about the challenges working moms face, but more importantly, they need to provide more flexibility so that they don’t miss out on valuable talent. While flexible workplace policies help women succeed in their personal and professional lives, expanding the talent search also helps to include more women in the hiring pipeline.
Much progress has been made in recent years for women in the labor market. Today there are now 41 women-led Fortune 500 companies, compared to just two in 2000. But as companies celebrate these advances, it’s an important time to reassess whether companies cultivate a successful workplace that empowers and advances women. By implementing mentoring programs, providing inclusive benefits and offering flexible work environments, companies can help their current employees succeed and attract new and valuable women to their talent pool.
Denise Hemke is chief product officer at Checkr.
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