Statistics and research surrounding the cause for the lack of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries indicate that not having role models is a significant barrier to the entrance and retention of women in these industries. What do researchers suggest as a way to combat this? Mentorship.
Our society as we know it is becoming increasingly technologically focused. In order to be at the cutting edge of innovation, you need an equal distribution of genders to bring their best ideas and perspectives to bear. With that said, one of my requests I have for all our Microsoft Partners out there is to be thoughtful as to the internal gender dynamics of your company. Although it might not be clearly measurable, seeking some female minds to join you at the table may have a great benefit to your organization. As for the women currently in your organization, focus on their development and growth.
I can make the assumption that you, as an employer or manager, want to attract, retain and grow the best talent. Keep in mind that, in the STEM industry, some of the processes that naturally spur men forward in their careers do not necessarily facilitate women’s careers as easily, due to fewer opportunities for women to bond with other women in the workplace. So, to help the process along a bit, here are some ideas:
Hold a panel discussion with the women in your company, sponsor a lunch for all the women with a VP or someone they would like some face time with, give them vouchers for a happy hour, or pay for an off-site.
Tell the women in your company your reason for organizing these events directly, saying that it is because you want them to interact and help each other grow in their careers. Also, do not only encourage women to mentor women. There is great value in cross-gender mentorship as well, and it may just need some more encouragement to get it to happen.
Make mentorship, recognition and promotion of the women in your organization a norm in your company’s culture.
There are burgeoning Women in Technology (WIT) communities around the globe. In fact, I am working to help support the creation of WIT groups as a subset of every International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP) chapter. There are many other non-Microsoft-related WIT groups as well, which can be found by Bing-ing “women in technology” and your city. These groups are great ways to meet other women with your same career or civic interests. They are also great opportunities to make connections to help you and other women to start, stay, and grow a career in technology.
Standing by and letting the gender inequality persist in the technology industry only hurts your businesses’ growth. It is in the best interest of male and female professionals to do something to rectify the STEM gender gap.
What I would like you to take from this post:
Start or join a local WIT chapter as part of your local IAMCP organization
Increase channels of mentorship for women within your organization
Remember that your organization’s competitive edge in this age of rapid technological advancement may lie in decreasing the gender gap.