Since I'm not an authority, let's hear from someone who is.

"Women hold just 26% of jobs in computing," writes Sheryl Sandberg. "They make up only 18% of the computer science graduates -- a number that has dropped from 35% in the mid 1980s. Women who do go into these fields often say they experience a negative workplace climate and feel isolated. When things get tough, they don't have enough role models to turn to for encouragement or support."

"When we leverage the power of diversity," she continues, "companies and teams perform better: They are more innovative and bring in more revenue and profits. What amazing inventions, apps, or solutions to the world's problems are we missing simply because we're not tapping women?"

That's why I talked to Anna Frazzetto, Chief Digital Technology Officer & SVP for Harvey Nash, the global recruitment consultancy and IT outsourcing service provider, leading sales strategy, solution architecture, management delivery and support of digital initiatives. (And as you'll see, another tireless advocate of workplace diversity and the advancement of women in technology.)

Plenty of people talk about the need for more women in senior leadership positions, but I'm not sure all the discussion has led to significant change.

It's quite the challenge. At Harvey Nash we conduct a CIO survey. This year's was in conjunction KPMG.  Some of the questions have to do with diversity, and one topic is senior leadership.

According to the most recent survey, only 9% out of the 4,000 respondents were women in leadership roles. And that's up from 6% the previous year.

That means out of 4,000 leaders, less than 350 are female leaders. I know that's a snapshot, but it does represent what goes on in the world. 

So it does beg the question: how do we attract and develop more female leaders, and in this case more women in IT.

So how do we?

We need a top-down strategy and a bottom-up strategy.

First, it has to start in the schools. I used to say it needed to start in colleges and universities... then in high schools... and now I focus on middle school.

We need to show young women that anything is possible. If you're a girl you can be great at math. If you're a guy you can be great at marketing. There are plenty of stereotypes on both sides to overcome.

That's why the idea of going after your passions -- and that you can succeed at your passions -- must start in the educational system. And we need to make the topics engaging. I have two nieces who are great users of technology but they have no desire to learn how that technology actually works. If I ask them, they'll say it's kind of nerdy and geeky.

So how do we make IT or computer science or STEM more appealing to young girls? I would be great if we got to the point where we didn't even have to ask that question. 

What about at the organizational level?

Fortunately the awareness is already there. It's something we've all been talking about. For some years diversity has been a huge topic for most organizations. And that's a great start: whenever you talk about diversity, you almost always see positive traction. 

But the one thing we don't want to do is move to the extremes. We shouldn't force diversity or put form of quota in place.  That doesn't work -- usually it does more harm than good. 

At Harvey Nash we've been part of the ARA (Advance, Retain, Attract) for three years and we have 2,500 people that participate in the mentorship/mentee program. The goal should always be to create positive energy around positive programs. I'm grateful for the mentors I've had... and keep in mind a woman doesn't have to mentor a woman. Women can learn from men, men can learn from women... we can learn from anyone, especially if that person not only encourages us but challenges us. That's what diversity is all about.  

Say I'm a woman hoping to advance into senior leadership positions. What would you tell me?

Confidence is the key ingredient, for men as well. 

Most of us are our own worst critics, and that makes it tough to keep from getting discouraged when we don't feel we can accomplish our goals. 

At my first job I worked really hard but got passed up for a promotion. I was talking to my dad, my greatest mentor, complaining about not getting promoted, and he said, "Does your manager know how you feel? Have you had that conversation? Did you sit across the desk and say, 'I would like to advance, this is what I would like to do...?'"

I said, "No, I expected him to have that conversation with me."

Confidence isn't cockiness. Say what you can do and what you want to do, back that up with genuine substance, and ask. And if you're told you aren't ready yet, ask what you need to do to be ready.

If you don't do that, you're just going to keep getting bypassed.

You named your dad as your greatest mentor. How can people find a great mentor?

A mentor doesn't have have to be your superior. Mentors don't have to be your peers. You can learn from your subordinates. You can say, "Wow, I love what you just did,and I want to learn to do that too." Study those people, pick their brains, and ask them how they handle certain situations. Your career is a little like playing with clay. It's up to you to mold your career. The more you fine tune it, the more you work it, the more you can see yourself in the job you hope to get -- and the role you hope to perform.

I'm also a firm believer in taking on more responsibility. I know I'm generalizing but that does seem to be a challenge with some millenials, because the mentality is sometimes the other way around: "I'm going to do what I signed up to do, and if you ask me to do more, I need the proper compensation and title associated with it."

If you want to get ahead, take on more responsibility before you get the money or title. You can show your leadership abilities, either in side projects or by taking on an informal leadership role... the key is you have to step up.

And if your company doesn't appreciate you stepping up, that might be a sign you need to move on.

Published on: Jul 29, 2016
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