IWD20: Celebrating Women in Tech and Thoughts on Diversity

11 Mar 2020 5 min read
Written by Silvia Macovei, Head of Cloud Business

Sunday was International Women’s Day. While gender equality is a topic we should be frequently addressing, it’s also good to pause at least once a year to reflect on some of the things we’re doing right and where we can grow.
Innovation is achieved in diverse teams, where people bring fresh perspectives. And most companies aim to innovate. So what can we do, as companies and individuals, to bring more women on board, particularly in the tech sector?

“A culture is a set of actions, not beliefs and intents”

Ben Horowitz said it best. The truth is the majority of leaders care about gender diversity. LinkedIn research shows that 78% of talent professionals say that diversity is a top hiring priority for their company. 

So if so many people care, why aren’t things progressing faster? One answer could be that values need to be complemented by virtues, a.k.a. practicing what you preach. It’s not only what you believe that matters. It’s also how you act out those beliefs.

Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging

But first of all, let’s take a quick look at what gender diversity and inclusion mean. When it comes to definitions, I loved LinkedIn’s analogy in its global recruiting trends report. “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is dancing like no one’s watching. Belonging is the feeling of psychological safety that allows employees to be their best selves at work. Even at the most diverse of companies, employees will disengage and leave if they don’t feel included and accepted.”
Diversity in the workplace has many different meanings. Today we’re only talking about one piece of the puzzle, but companies should strive to come up with a holistic, all-encompassing approach.

Look for diverse skillsets

You can’t create great software without great people. And you can’t build awesome tools with one skillset. You need diverse thoughts and skills. Empathy and collaboration may sometimes not be valued as much as ambition in interviews or job descriptions. Yet they are essential skills needed to thrive in the workplace and complete projects. Do you mostly prioritise competition over collaboration?

The more women you hire and promote, the more women will apply

But how do you get women to apply in the first place? The truth is, the more women you hire and promote, the more women will apply. At XWiki half of our team are women. This also extends to our leadership team. Having women in the team has had a positive impact on growing diversity. Most candidates research a company’s culture before they apply for a job. When women see other women working in a company and doing the job, they’re more likely to apply for the role.

Secondly, the Language Matters Report found that 44% of women would have second thoughts about applying to a new position if the description included the word “aggressive”. Is the language in your job ads inclusive? Or are you looking to hire ninjas and jedis?

Embrace diversity throughout the company

Many great companies don’t have a grand diversity strategy, but you can see diversity embedded in their ethos. They don’t use culture fit as an excuse to hire the same type of person. They recruit for shared values, but also prize diversity of thought and skills. They embrace openness and give everyone a voice. They create an environment where people feel heard, respected and supported.
Setting up a diversity strategy can be intimidating. Instead, two things you can do right now to get started are getting buy-in from the top and start making small, incremental changes. Over time they will add up to healthy habits and lead to big results.

Make flexibility a priority

69% of employees consider flexible work options as one of the “most important factors” they look at when evaluating a job prospect. Flexibility plays a huge role in a healthy work/life balance. At XWiki, we’ve been working flexible hours and offering remote work partially or fully for the past 15 years now. We see it as the future of work and never considered enforcing the regular 9 to 5 in the office.

It's hard to improve what you don’t measure

Creating a diverse workplace should not be an extracurricular activity that you can think about when you’ve finished doing the real work. Nor will results appear overnight. We should be constantly assessing our culture, setting up goals and tracking progress. Are the numbers decreasing or stagnating? Are we going in a positive direction? What are the lessons we can learn and the good things we can replicate?

More tips from the Women Techmakers

Recently, I attended Google’s International Women’s Day event in London, where I got the chance to meet with the Women Techmakers community, that I've been a part of for many years. It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and get inspired. Here are seven tips for women in tech from the wonderful women who attended the event:

  • You don’t need to meet all the requirements to apply for a new job.
  • Be proud of your accomplishments and the diverse experiences you bring to the table.
  • Don’t mistake your strengths for weaknesses.
  • Everyone has imposter syndrome on some level.
  • Try to break that glass ceiling if this is what you feel is right, but equally, don’t feel like you need to go on the management path if this is not what you want. You can channel your efforts on becoming a great specialist.
  • Go to events and challenge yourself to speak to at least three new people.
  • Most importantly, join communities to connect with other people and create opportunities. These should be spaces that inspire you to do more, but also places where you can safely express your doubts.

Diversity helps build better products and services, which in turn leads to more revenue and profit. It is the indirect fuel for growth. Let’s make it a priority.

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