Read part 1 here
Although we have taken bold strides towards gender equality, women remain woefully underrepresented in the technology industry with a talent pipeline heavily skewed towards men.
Gender bias in Silicon Valley and beyond is not a new or simple problem to solve. In my first article in this series, I explored the complex dynamics at play that are keeping the gender gap wide open. Shattering the infamous glass ceiling is an uphill battle without a silver bullet that can annihilate the barriers.
So, where do we start and what should senior leaders do to reshape the workplace, trace, and terminate hidden bias, morph attitudes and perceptions to make an organization truly inclusive?
Here are some key strategies that employers should adopt to calibrate gender imbalance, enhance diversity, and set their firms up for success.
5 Call-to-Actions for Promoting Gender Diversity
1. Implement Blind CVs
Discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age, and appearance is still rampant in the recruitment process. There are countless stories of blatant bias corroborated from candidates and recruiters that hold a mirror to the unconscious prejudice that sadly still exists in our society, seeping into company cultures, perceptions, and attitudes.
Studies have revealed that most hiring managers tend to choose male candidates over female candidates even when their CVs have the same qualifications and experience. A recent Pew Research highlights the double standards that exist in the hiring process that leads to differential pay packages offered for the same job. Unconscious bias during the recruitment process can gravely undermine an organization’s attempt at achieving diversity.
Anonymizing CVs can enable deserving candidates to cross the initial hurdles and secure that all-important interview. Research confirms that women are 25-46% more likely to be hired with blind CVs.
2. Set Gender Targets
Having an overarching vision for gender diversity and declaring oneself an equal opportunities employer is great but unless there are concrete measurable goals to work towards, that vision will not translate into reality.
Leaders need to set incremental targets for their firms to work towards gender parity. These measures can include having a robust onboarding process, reverse mentoring, external coaching, and 360-degree assessments that unlock sponsorship programs for high-performers to accelerate to senior leadership positions. Organizations should make a commitment to achieve a defined percentage of women in the C-suite and top executive roles.
The percentage of women in tech remains painfully low today at 16% and there is a reason that number has barely changed in the last 10 years. Firms should hold themselves accountable and measure their annual and quarterly success not only in financial terms but also on their progress in gender diversity. Leaders in positions of influence should have gender diversity as part of their KPIs to really move the needle within their firms.
3. Bridge the Wage Gap
In Silicon Valley, men on average make 61% more than women, 63% of the time women get offered a lower salary than men for the same position in the same firm, and the wage gap widens even further when it comes to minorities and women of color.
We cannot expect women to achieve their fullest potential and climb their way to CXO roles if we do not remunerate them fairly. Equal pay for equal work must be the unwavering mission for firms if they want to attract and retain the best talent.
4. Eliminate ‘Motherhood Penalty’
Women, who make up 40% of the working population, lose an average of 4% hourly pay when starting a family which adds up to a significant loss of lifetime earnings. New research supports that working moms are penalized in their careers, passed up for opportunities, and held back from promotions. New fathers on the other hand usually get a 6% average pay rise. The motherhood penalty is playing a pivotal role in holding women back from senior leadership positions and keeping the glass ceiling firmly in place.
Firms should invest in friendly maternity policies and pay, create comprehensive return to work schemes and offer flexible working options as standard company benefits. There is a clear correlation between an increased number of women in senior leadership positions and the availability of flexible work.
Employers must also address the stigma attached to taking advantage of flexible working options and reassure employees that their performance will be measured based on results—not when, where, or how many hours they work. Furthermore, organizations should rethink their paternity policies and implement shared parental leave. Normalizing caregiving for dads will also greatly aid in tempering gender disparity and enable more women to pursue leadership roles.
5. Address Gender Bias
We cannot fight a problem that we cannot see. Firms must address the issue of gender bias head-on, discussing it openly. Building awareness about unconscious bias and discrimination at the workplace is a step in the right direction. Bias training and workshops should be made available to all employees.
The Clock is Ticking
Reports indicate that firms with women at the helm perform 10 times better financially when compared to organizations with fewer women in leadership roles. With the global GDP set to benefit from a $28 trillion boost to the economy if we reach full gender equality by 2025, it would be a real missed opportunity if organizations continue to sidestep the subject of gender diversity.
The time to act is now. Closing the gender gap may be that competitive edge that catapults a firm to the winner’s circle in the digital age.
In the last article in this series, I will explore how women can empower each other to thrive in the tech industry.
Partner & Managing Director, Infosys Consulting Germany
Ann-Kathrin champions our growth strategy and our integrated, one-Europe ambition. Previously she spent 14 years at Accenture where she progressed through a number of roles, ultimately becoming a partner in 2008 after growing a number of key accounts across the communications, media, and retail sectors. At the time she was the firm’s youngest partner and led communications and high-tech clients across the DACH region. Ann-Kathrin moved to IBM in 2013, where she was the global lead account partner for Deutsche Telekom, one of IBM’s largest accounts in Germany, leading over 250 consultants onsite and offshore. Prior to that, she served as the European leader for interactive experience and mobile services for the communications industry, leading a team of 30 partners across the region to focus on digital transformation. She is passionate about selling high-end management consulting work and developing high-performing teams that can enable large-scale transformation agendas for clients. Ann-Kathrin has a degree in business administration from the Fachhochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Reutlingen, Germany, and the Middlesex University Business School in London.