Liz Benson, vice president of strategy at Kofax reports on how to create opportunities for women in tech.
As another International Women’s Day passes, we’re reminded that there are still many challenges facing women who work in technology in 2022.
However, simply acknowledging that there is a problem isn’t enough anymore. It’s important for us to move past the awareness phase and begin to take practical action that can have real world impacts on the lives and careers of women around the world.
At our recent Women in Tech Roundtable, I spoke with four panellists from across Asia Pacific to pose several questions about creating more opportunities and some of the real-world solutions that could help elevate women to shine even brighter. Their insights and personal stories, along with that of the attendees, gave us some practical ideas on how we create more opportunities beyond that glass ceiling.
Equal opportunities to climb the corporate ladder
Ensuring that women are afforded equal opportunity to rise through the ranks is an important first step in equalising representation in business. For example, did you know that for every 100 men promoted, only 86 women are ? This, despite the fact that we know that companies with diverse hiring practices perform better, have better talent on hand and enjoy more engaged employees.
It’s frustrating, a sentiment that was shared by all our panellists. One panellist highlighted the pervasion of “bro culture” within business and the inherent bias that it creates. When women feel that they must work harder than men to be seen as just as worthy, there’s a real issue. Another noted that women are forced to overcome the bias of choosing to have children, or getting married, as just one more hurdle to advancement in an organisation.
Finally, imposter syndrome was suggested as contributing factor as to why women face difficulties in moving up the organisational ladder. Having to prove their knowledge and ability more than male counterparts or feeling like they need to wait and ensure that they tick all the boxes before applying for a new role, is holding many women back from deserved promotions compared to more confident men who see a role they like and apply.
Encouraging ally-ship and engagement
Creating equal opportunities in tech for women requires engaging with male counterparts and encouraging them to address gender inequality and provide mentorship and leadership.
While the word “ally” has taken on buzzword status over the last couple of years, the fact is that organisations openly and practically supporting ally-ship can help break the cycle that keeps many women from reaching higher levels of organisations. Founding and supporting programs that promote inclusivity in typically male-dominated areas of a business is one way to encourage men and women to engage in a positive and encouraging way.
One panellist noted that her organisation encouraged formal and informal working groups that bring everyone together in settings that reduces barriers to entry and encourage participation. Giving women the outlet they need to raise concerns and share their experiences with allies and other women can help promote confidence in their ability to take their career in both hands.
Working together equally encourages trust and evokes confidence. Alliances that don’t focus on gender mean that ability and capability become more important and are rewarded accordingly.
Breaking the “Anytime – Anywhere” habit
COVID has entrenched and even accelerated the assumption that people, and in particular women, should be ready and available to work around the clock. Women are often faced with up to three separate and demanding roles in life: Employee, Wife/Partner, and Mum. It’s a recipe for fatigue and burnout.
Now the expectation is that employees work overtime, take calls out of hours, and answer emails on days off as a matter of course. For women who still perform the majority of household tasks and care, this is especially difficult as now they’re being asked to juggle their family responsibilities with career priorities.
Women should be encouraged to take back the power and believe that it’s OK to say no to working outside of office hours, according to one of our panellists. While the mental health crisis affecting men is rightly considered so important, it’s equally important for women to feel like they can say no, and not be punished or made to feel like they aren’t doing their job for doing so.
Elevating our careers
A key step in empowering women to roles beyond the glass ceiling is recognising that when women ask for support, it’s not because there is a skills gap or lack of understanding of the job. It’s because they may need support in removing institutional barriers.
Allies and mentors also need to understand the context of their support. By asking where a woman sees her career going, or where she’d like it to go, allies can establish what support is needed and as leaders, help women to achieve that goal. Nurturing open lines of communication is critical to achieving this. Instead of end-of-year goal setting meetings, regular interactions can make you feel more engaged, more empowered and more valued.
Now is the time to be developing the pipeline of the next generation of female leaders. While change is gradual the actions that we take to keep female leaders in in their career fields and rising will someday soon achieve equity.
We should continue to persevere. To not be shy and own our own careers and support other women in theirs.