The first of a two-part series, ‘Creating a Culture of Inclusion’, was held on August 22nd. Mary Patry, IT Executive Coach and Advisor at ITEffectively, lead the conversation among a community of women in senior IT roles.

"Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another." - Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, 1993

Mary Patry shared a few statistics by the National Center for Women in Technology, which provides a look at the gender gap in the IT field:

  • Although 57% of all bachelor-degree recipients are women, only 19% of those degrees are in computer and information sciences.

  • Professional women comprise 57% of all professional occupations, but only 26% of them are in professional computing occupations.

  • Women employed in technology are leaving at staggering rates despite an expected dramatic increase in the availability of those positions over the coming years.

From this context, the participants discussed three areas of how to move toward a more inclusive IT culture:

  • Opportunities presented by the statistics
  • Obstacles that must be overcome
  • Personal successes and road blocks

Opportunities for Inclusion

The number of women in IT is small compared to that of men, but many women are choosing to view this as an opportunity. There are great things happening in the market that will soon change the statistics outlined by the National Center for Women in Technology.

  1. Encouraging Young Girls: The national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Initiative works to address the first statistic regarding bachelor's degrees. According to the National Girls Collaborative, young girls perform as well as boys through 12th grade, except for computer science and engineering. In those, only 23% of young women take advanced placement computer science versus 77% of their male counterparts. The Collaborative seeks to level the playing field by taking advantage of various public and private resources to encourage young women to explore careers in non-traditional fields for women.

  2. Conscious Mentoring or Sponsoring of Women: There is an opportunity for the women who hold science and engineering degrees to increase their sponsorship and mentorship of young or professional women who show an aptitude for computer sciences. From elementary school through college and on into the workforce, female CIOs can volunteer to mentor women and ensure that their own teams are composed of females empowered in their workplace.

  3. Keeping Women in the Workplace: Women leaving technology positions is troubling and requires a multi-pronged approach. Mary Patry posed questions about why women are leaving tech jobs, because currently there’s no data explaining the answer. Are they leaving tech and moving careers? Are women staying home to be care-givers?

Obstacles

Obstacles to the successful inclusion of women are not insurmountable. A few obstacles discussed on the webinar:

  • Invisibility: Often, women in the workplace feel that their ideas or opinions are not heard. Many companies unfortunately have cultures that minimize women’s ideas and don’t value their input until it's embraced and validated by a man.

“Often, as women, we are doing our boss’s job, but nobody sees that.”
Webinar participant.

  • Differing standards across genders: Women generally feel they must work twice as hard as a man to receive half the credit. In meetings and around the workplace, women are often tagged as "angry" or "hormonal" when they communicate their position versus a man expressing similar views.

“If I do some of the things that male leaders are doing, such as poor communication, poor clarity, or lack of caring about employees, it’s very likely that I’d be fired by now.” Webinar participant.

  • Inferiority: Our society has made women frequently feel they are not as deserving as a man. The feeling of inferiority or internalized unsatisfactory performance often prevents women from taking steps in order to advance their standing, including applying for jobs for which they are qualified, asking for a pay increase, or requesting time away from the job to attend career-enrichment events.

“When I go to a conference, as a woman, I’m not sure I should even ask for
my family to attend with me, even though I see men bring their families all the time.” Webinar participant

  • "Mansplaining": A phenomenon in which a man feels the need to interpret complex concepts on a simple level so a woman can understand them.

Solutions

No easy solution exists for cultural change, but women can begin changing the conversation.

“There seem to be very few take-aways about what to do versus how many obstacles we face?” Webinar participant

A few ideas discussed that may get a closer to inclusive solutions:

  1. Hold inclusion and diversity seminars or discussions at work. If men are put off by the activity, it’s time to talk to HR about the overall culture of the company.

  2. Encourage hiring professionals to recognize that women do have the skills, the knowledge and the experience for leadership jobs, but are hesitant to put themselves into a position of ridicule or disrespect.

  3. Invite women’s groups to not focus so much on the obstacles and problems women face but on the solutions that empower them to succeed.

  4. Don’t take on too many responsibilities, especially if other leaders are not performing the same number of tasks.

  5. Have faith in yourself and your own work. Don’t let what others say have an effect on your confidence.

The overall encouragement and positive theme of the webinar was clear:

As women, let’s stand up for ourselves and find our collective voice. Let’s encourage and uphold one another and know that we have the skills for the roles we desire to hold. Let’s not resign ourselves to doing the work our culture prescribes, but instead what we desire. Our opinions are as valuable as any man's, so let’s share them as often as we need.

It's up to women to support one another in claiming our place in society in whatever role we choose.

Don’t miss the next webinar! REGISTER TODAY

OCTOBER 3 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm ET

In this session, we'll broaden the conversation to include men and women in IT as well as anyone who participated in the August 22nd survey. Mary Patry will moderate.