Yesterday morning, I attended Drupal GovDays 2013 at the National Institutes of Health campus. While I have limited web design and coding experience, I found the conference valuable in that it showcased the power of technology in bringing people together to discuss leading practices and new tools. The depth and breadth of the speaker topics and workshops was incredible, ranging from how to use multilingual tools to community development on the Open Web.
The session, Recruiting and Retaining Talent – by women, for men: what we need to know to keep women in the tech workforce, was packed with great information for both employers and professionals regarding how to build a diverse tech workforce. It was led by Tracy Betts, CEO of Balance Interactive.
Context: Recruiting and retaining women in technology careers
- Women hold 56% of all professional jobs in the U.S., but only 24% of all jobs in technology.
- 56% of women in technology leave at the mid-level point (10-20 years) in their careers, which is double the rate of men.
Psychologist Dr. Geert Hofstede developed five dimensions of culture, including one that defines masculinity referring to how much a society adheres to and values traditional male and female roles/traits. In populations with high MAS scores, men are expected to be the provider and maintain assertive and tough traits. In places with low MAS scores, the roles are blurred, with men and women working together across professions exhibiting traits across gender traditions.
The U.S. is considered a “masculine society” with a score of 62. Norms related to this indicate we “live to work” and maintain a “winner take all” perspective.
— So, does that mean that the U.S. is unfriendly to women?
Not necessarily. But it does mean that we can do more to embrace social and professional qualities across gender norms and across sectors, especially those in technology and management.
The Crux of the Matter: Leadership
A Harvard Business Review article suggested that, although there are fewer women in leadership positions, survey data revealed that women rated higher in overall leadership effectiveness.
The quote below nicely sums up the value of all this information. Basically, the issue is not centered on simply getting more women in some professionals and more men in others. This is an issue of leadership.
With all this information in mind, the speakers talked about what can be done to forge ahead.
Tips for Employers
- Design a culture of equal competition
- This means addressing biases and normalizing approaches to interviewing, performance review and promotions.
- Embrace feminine management traits, not (necessarily) female managers
- It’s not about quotas!
- Create opportunities for growth
- For example, the Air Force implemented a mentorship program to support a number of initiatives, such as female-to-female mentoring.
Tips for Professionals – Develop [traditionally gender-specific] qualities to your advantage.
Don’t be afraid to compete like a man. For example, be:
- Confident (but not proud)
Don’t forget to lead like a woman
- Plan ahead
- Be reasonable
- Be communicative
What do you think?
What are your agency’s challenges in recruiting and retention?
How has your agency made strides in building workplace diversity?
For those curious, here are: