Businesses have the opportunity and responsibility to support and encourage women in tech and improve representation of women at all levels of the organizations. For some companies, there’s a gap between the desire to have a diverse, inclusive workforce and the actual effort that progress requires. But even executives with perfect motivations are finding themselves looking at stagnant diversity stats and searching for what it takes to create lasting impact.
Brenda Darden Wilkerson, president and CEO of AnitaB.org, believes that the tone is set at the top. Leaders set the company direction, communicate goals, allocate company resources to meet goals and ultimately, are held accountable for achieving the goals of the business. If leaders prioritize having a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace, it will become a priority of the entire organization.
CEOs who make visible and enduring commitments are crucial to the success of programs focused on the advancement of women. The 2019 AnitaB.org Top Companies Insights Report found that companies that review workforce diversity data at least once per month have higher representation of women than companies who review it less often. What leaders budget for and what they measure says a lot about what they care about.
Once commitment is established from the top, there are many actions leaders can take to create cultures where diverse groups of women can succeed.
At the AnitaB.org Male Allies Summit in November, several leaders shared tangible changes they have made to better support women in the workplace. Here are a few as shared on stage at the event:
Breakdown bad cultural behaviors
As leaders of the organization, you must observe what’s happening in the workplace. For example, attend meetings and watch who’s always speaking up, who’s being talked over and shut down behavior that isn’t appropriate. Look for ways to intentionally give people who are constantly being spoken over the opportunity to stand up and share their opinions. Be transparent in giving credit where it’s due in the development of ideas.
Being aware of and intervening in the cultural behavior that perpetuates a lack of inclusion allows you to make a meaningful and lasting mark on your organization. – Jeremy Legg, CTO, Warner Media
Establish formal mentorship and sponsorship programs
Men are 50% more likely to have a mentor in their industries than women. By establishing formal programs, you level the playing field and create opportunities for both women and men in your company or industry. And women in tech with a mentor are more likely to advance their careers and take on leadership roles. – Jeremy Legg, CTO, Warner Media
Many people within an organization are taking note of even the seemingly little things and being affected by the choices you make. Be intentional about pushing people to get out of their comfort zones and grow. And not just the guys who always raise their hands–ask your female colleague or people of color in the company. Be intentional about filling roles and thoughtful about who’s at the table. Don’t only focus on the skills, but make sure that the culture is right so all members of the team can contribute. – Ather Williams, Managing Director, Bank of America
Create the scorecard and put in place ways to measure the culture of the business. Establish goals and plans around how you will develop and promote leaders. If you fail, recognize it, be transparent and create the path forward for achieving those goals. – Ather Williams, Managing Director, Bank of America
Know your people
You can’t always find people’s strengths or ambitions by looking at resumes. You have to get to know people and their capabilities and find out where you can support them to succeed. It takes time to know who people are, what they really want in their careers, where they want to grow and how you can get them there. – Ather Williams, Managing Director, Bank of America
AnitaB.org works with leaders and organizations across industries to address the barriers to equity in the workplace. The organization believes that 50/50 intersectional gender equity in tech can be achieved by focusing on the areas where technical women experience the greatest disparities—hiring, pay parity, retention, VC funding, and empowerment.