We all know that female diversity in the technology industry remains a challenging issue. Despite increasing numbers over the past few years, women are still vastly underrepresented in IT companies, and in particular, executive and entrepreneurial roles.
But instead of pointing the finger, the answer to creating an even playing field falls on much more than a handful of powerful people. All genders and professionals share a responsibility to turns things around. From large corporations to small start-ups, releasing public statements that you're seeking to hire more women simply isn't enough.
"The tech industry still has a long way to go," said Michaela Jeffery-Morrison, Co-Founder and Head of Production at Maddox Events, a B2B events company committed to creating conferences which champion diversity in the tech industry.
"Part of the problem is that Rome cannot be built in a day. Reimagining outdated hierarchies, overcoming unconscious bias and correcting systemic inequality is a significant challenge," she said. "So it's vital that tech companies continue to invest in improving their internal conditions, but they need to be active in the wider community too."
That's why her team has introduced a global event series that focuses solely on fostering the next generation of women in tech. Their upcoming conference, Women of Silicon Valley, brings together inspiring female leaders who will speak on a variety of issues that are designed to not only start the conversation, but find the answers we need to benefit the industry as a whole.
Here are five strategies Jeffery-Morrison has shared that leaders can do right now to bridge the gap:
1. Start the conversation early.
By increasing young talent entering the industry, we'll be actively creating inclusive cultures, highlighting inspirational role models, and giving real insight to women already in the industry.
Young girls need strong examples. That's why tech organizations need to actively start building relationships with local schools to help female youth aware of the vast career opportunities in IT.
2. Share your story.
For the few women in tech that do hold positions of power and influence, it's imperative that they publicly speak about their experiences.
"Women are inspired by stories and by the fact that such great technical content is being delivered by women. This is why all businesses and events are responsible for ensuring they have accurate representation -- role models, mentors and a community that enable other women in the industry to flourish," said Jeffery-Morrison.
3. Do an (honest) audit.
Before you scoff at the idea, consider releasing your pay gap figures. Actions like this are painful for companies of all sizes, but putting the truth out there is the best way to start taking steps to eliminate under-representation and inequality.
"From the companies that I work with, I have seen that the only realistic starting point is to have an honest audit of gender diversity and representation with an organization," said Jeffery-Morrison. "If companies cannot honestly and objectively benchmark themselves, than how can effective change be implemented?"
North America needs to take a lesson from Britain, who is one of the first countries to introduce mandatory pay-gap reporting. By this April, any company in the United Kingdom that has more than 250 employees must report their salaries for both men and women. Accountability and transparency to both the public and their employees will start moving us down the right path.
4. Join the club.
According to Jeffery-Morrison, one of the major challenges facing women in the industry is isolation. That's why she recommends creating an internal women in tech group. By having a networking group of this kind, the women working in tech functions have an obvious source of support, mentorship and advice.
Mentors, colleagues, allies and sponsors are key to making a real impact. Creating a group within your organization to champion women is a great way to build a cohesive voice and enable real cultural change.
5. Provide resources for growth.
From negotiating pay raises to asking for promotions, women are continually shying away from progressing their positions. Part of the reason for this is a lack of resources.
By equipping female professionals with the right skills, insight and connections, they can increase their confidence and gain the assertiveness needed to effectively negotiate.
For organizations, this means bringing in career coaches or offering development programs that all levels of staff can participate in. It may seem counterproductive to equip your employees to ask for more money, but the rewards will far outweigh the paycheck.
Initiatives like these will build your reputation as an employer that supports their team and cares about their success. This will attract top talent, increase retention, and create a more dynamic, innovative workforce.