Around the globe, employers are becoming aware that the low participation rate of women in the high tech industry has a negative impact on business. According to Sharon Florentine in her CIO article, “6 Ways to Attract and Retain Female IT Talent,” research shows that actively recruiting, retaining and advancing more women is good for a company’s bottom line. And when women are in leadership positions, turnover is reduced, the overall performance of the organization is enhanced and a strong leadership pipeline is established.
Also, since the high tech industry is overwhelmingly male-dominated, companies are missing out on a significant pool of quality talent. Especially in a labor market where employers are concerned about a talent gap in professions such as engineering, companies can’t realistically afford to not foster female talent. However, statistics indicate a lack of success when it comes to retaining women: a Harvard Business Review report led by Sylvia Ann Hewlett shows that 41 percent of highly qualified STEM workers are female, yet more than 50 percent of them leave the field in their mid to late thirties.
What Employers Can Do
According to the Kelly Services article, “Attracting and Retaining Women in the High Tech Industry,” some of the reasons women leave the IT industry include a lack of female colleagues and role models, as well as distinctly inferior treatment such as lower salaries and fewer advancement opportunities when compared to their male peers. It’s only logical, therefore, that addressing these issues would make for more attractive work environments for women. Employers should consider taking the following measures:
- Diversity training aimed at promoting understanding, tolerance and equal treatment between male and female workers. This training should include both management and employees and be geared to eliminating gender bias.
- Offering equal salaries. According to David Louie in the ABC7News article, “Silicon Valley Job Growth Exposes Increasing Gender Gap,” men in tech earn up to 61 percent more than their female counterparts. Obviously, offering women equal remuneration will form an important incentive.
- Offering clear career paths for women. Employers should clarify how women can advance within the company from the start of the recruitment process.
- Providing paid maternity leave, as well as flexible work arrangements. Many women leave the high tech industry due to a lack of support for motherhood. Creating work environments where they can fulfill both their roles as mothers and as professionals will likely help retain them beyond their mid to late thirties.
- Actively encourage female role models. Inviting senior female employees to speak to and mentor younger ones provides clear role models who prove women can succeed in the high tech field. At the same time, recruiting female students in the same manner can encourage more women to study STEM subjects and enter the field of high tech.
- Provide relocation support geared specifically toward women. Women who need to relocate for their jobs may require tailored support to help them and their families acclimate to the new environment. From cultural training for a female employee relocating to a more traditional society to support in locating schools and childcare, relocation companies can provide superior relocation experiences that help employers retain their top female talent.
Attracting and retaining women in the high tech industry is an ongoing endeavor. But by understanding what women want and where companies fall short, employers can effectively adapt their talent management strategies to foster and support top female talent.