By REBECCA HENDERSON | Uptown News
In a survey of the best tech cities for women, San Diego did not break the top 40, and failed to reach national averages for positions held by women, income after housing costs, and gender pay gap.
The lack of female representation in other tech hubs, like Silicon Valley, has put tech companies’ diversity initiatives in the national spotlight. Although the tech industry is integrating more women in board rooms, the progress they’ve made to fill the gender gap has been minimal. According to a report by Morning Consult, only 50% of women would consider a job in the tech industry — compared to 74% of men.
A recurring theme in the industry is there aren’t enough women with STEM degrees to fill tech roles. But according to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women earn 50.3% of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees — yet still remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce.
When it comes to finding work, women want it all: We want more than a fair paycheck, paid family leave and flexible hours. Female candidates who entered the labor market this past year — reversing a two-decade decline — want to work for companies whose values reflect their own. If the technology sector wants to resolve its gender disparity, companies need to focus on communicating their values to attract women.
In fact, nearly three-quarters of women are interested in working for a company with a higher purpose beyond generating revenue, according to the same report from Morning Consult. Only half of men surveyed said the same.
Concerning what values are most appealing, both men and women are drawn to employers who are environmentally responsible or give a share of company profits to charity. But women in white-collar fields were particularly interested in companies that make a deliberate effort to hire and promote a diverse staff. This is a particular weakness of the tech industry.
This makes sense when you consider that, generally speaking, women want to lift up other women. We want to see employers make an impact on society from the inside-out, and our fellow women to feel empowered to make decisions about their careers or family, rather than be motivated by guilt or fear. Most of all, we want a more equitable society and workplace for the generations after us.
Organizations can demonstrate their commitment to diversity in many ways, like closing gender pay gaps and setting goals to increase gender representation in leadership. Employers can organize affinity groups and mentorship programs for women and people of color and offer unconscious bias training to all employees. Even small donations to organizations committed to advancing women or other underrepresented groups can go a long way.
For companies, a commitment to diversity is shown to boost both performance and innovation. According to new research from McKinsey & Company, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 21% and those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 33%. Employers who make these efforts will see more applications from candidates with a wider array of backgrounds.
As CEO of a global talent solutions provider, I see diversity work its magic all the time. For example, crowdfunding website Patreon signals its commitment with a motto you might not expect to hear in Silicon Valley: “Work hard and go home.” Erica Joy Baker, senior engineering manager, told The Wall Street Journal that this motto and the lack of keep-you-at-work perks tells her that her company cares about work-life balance — an especially important factor for women choosing an employer.
One of the ways we demonstrate our dedication at Randstad Sourceright is through the mentorship programs we offer. By pairing more senior male and female executives with early- to mid-career women, we have noticed a lasting impact on the career trajectory of our female employees.
Though women are certainly looking for companies that understand our need for flexible hours and paid family leave, a commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion can speak even louder.
For San Diego to live up to its value — to “lead in the creation of a work environment which encourages professionalism, pride and respect” — tech firms must pledge to improve women’s representation in their ranks. Because ultimately, a commitment to diversity tells women that a company will be committed to them.
— Rebecca Henderson is the CEO of Randstad Global Businesses and Executive Board Member