These days, so many initiatives have focused on advancing women in IT and STEM, supported by many organizations, driving many events. I am more than just a little bit tired of it. It’s time for a little less conversation and a little more action!
Hiring with gender balance as a priority is challenging, but if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you, your team or your company either!
I remain 100 per cent aligned with the importance of this endeavour, and it is time to put aside the biases and make it matter, now more than ever. In a September 2020 article by McKinsey Global Institute, they cited that women’s jobs globally are 1.8 times as vulnerable due to the COVID-19 crisis as men’s jobs. They cited women’s roles make up 39 per cent of global employment but accounted for 54 per cent of overall job losses as of May 2020. When I look at the Canadian statistics for the IT industry, the numbers show that women occupy less than 30 per cent of our industry jobs. With all the talk and all the initiatives, we should be moving forward, not backwards.
I’ve been down the diversity road during my tenure as a leader in the Canadian tech sector, and I know first hand that it is challenging, yet I have also seen and experienced that the results are worth the effort. Of the twelve seats around the leadership table in my previous corporate IT role, six were filled with women, and six were filled with men. Across every single team, we had diversity and not just gender diversity. Why? Because we are a diverse population across Canada, and as businesses, if we are committed to inspiring creativity, ingenuity, innovation and inclusion, we must embrace diversity lest we become (or maintain) the single-minded, disingenuous, exclusion-oriented, old-school, male-dominated industry.
Here’s how you can get started
While making it happen isn’t necessarily easy, it isn’t terribly difficult either. Like most things in business and life, it starts with a plan. In my leadership experience, we had a plan that was bi-directional, leadership-team down, and entry-level recruitment up, and the results made it all worthwhile.
On the entry-level side of the plan, we targeted college and university events to promote and raise awareness of our technology solutions company to level-up the excitement relating to the roles and possibilities in choosing a tech industry career. We put an intern program in place and worked diligently to ensure we had gender and cultural diversity for each of these paid roles, and we managed and measured our diversity targets.
Many of these interns would graduate and return to begin their full-time career roles with us.
Our inside sales team was re-booted in 2012 when we doubled the size of the group. We started with two female sales leaders, who led with creativity and hosted post-secondary job fair events that brought in many of the best and the brightest starting in sales support roles and inside sales roles. For many, this inspired career journeys in sales, marketing, finance, sales leadership and beyond. Having women in leadership roles attracts women to your team.
With a gender-balanced leadership team, our business plans and culture plans had diversity goals, objectives and metrics that each leader committed to and delivered against. Sounds easy, but it was not. We had to throw out many of our old career profiles and re-write them with thoughtful consideration to whom we were working to attract as applicants. We had to ensure we had gender balance through the interview and selection process.
It’s often challenging hiring or backfilling for some of the more senior, experienced roles with diversity objectives in mind. I think about the attendee demographics at many of the tech industry events and conferences of the pre-pandemic era, heavily male-dominated. When we would post career opportunities, frequently, we would see the scales tipped with as much as 90 per cent of applicants being men.
The applicant profile resulted in many excuses from hiring managers such as “do you want me to hire the best person for the role or the best female for the role” to which I would respond, the best person for the team and our planned objectives.
Hiring with gender balance as a priority is challenging, but if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you, your team or your company either! Looking back, by setting targets and measuring our progress on diversity, we built a strong and vibrant culture, we delivered outstanding profitable growth, and our diversity made it a great place to work.
When I say I am tired of the events, meetings and messaging around women in IT and women in STEM, I say that because we have been talking about this for far too long! It seems like for some; this topic has become a platform fueled with other purposes for some people or organizations, perhaps without a real altruistic purpose.
Canada needs more women in the workforce, and it drives our productivity and performance. It’s time to make it happen, a little less conversation and a little more action.
The results are worth the effort!