Women in Tech: What Needs to Be Done?

In the last 30 years, the number of women in technology has actually declined, according to Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President of Commercial Partners at Microsoft, in a recent TEDx talk, “Something needs to be done,” she said

Directions Training President Jennifer Didier agrees – and she did something about it. “There is an employment, pay, and culture gap for women in the technology field,” she told us. “As more and more organizations move to the cloud, the demand for cloud-certified technical talent is going to continue to increase.”

Showing the initiative characteristic of women leaders in the tech sector, Didier took action in the form of a valuable program to enable more women. The WiT CloudPower Scholarship Program “helps women seize an opportunity to skill-up and position themselves for advancement by getting them the training and resources they need,” she said. Launched in April 2020, the WiT CloudPower Scholarship has been awarded to 70 women, starting them on their path to a career managing Azure cloud services.

Supporting women in IT

Microsoft’s Schuster offered additional suggestions for IT firms seeking to support the role and growth of women in the industry. “They can tap into the existing networks that support women and people of color so that they take an intentional action of developing relationships, giving women and people of color access to their organizations and supporting women to either come work in their organizations, partner with them or co-invest in new areas of innovation,” she said.

Organizations recommended by Schuster include The WIT Network, WIC (Women in Cloud), the Diversity and Inclusion groups through chapters of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), and the Black Channel Partner Network sponsored by IAMCP.

“By intentionally networking with individuals in these organizations,” suggests Schuster, “they expand their circle of influence and build out their candidate and partnership pools.”

Michelle Ragusa-McBain, Vice President of Global Channel Strategy at JS Group and past chairman of CompTIA’s Advancing Women in Technology, reports working with Rokeya Jones of Microsoft, Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, Quinnie Wong of Verizon, and founder of WiseHer Kathryn Rose as co-founders of  Tech World’s Half – a non-profit community to collaborate on encouraging and keeping half of the total workforce – women – in the Technology Industry.

According to Ragusa-McBain, the organization’s goals are to:

  • Share best practices on how to thrive in tech

  • Provide a forum to connect mentors and mentees for women in tech, and connecting them with the right opportunities

  • Create a group of women in tech who can advocate more programs and services that keep women in the industry.  Every day thousands of women connect, support, and inspire each other – especially during these challenging times.

Starting young

Carolyn April, Senior Director of Industry Analysis at CompTIA, says, “I’ve seen many groups spring up at the various places I’ve worked, including CompTIA, that are devoted to supporting women in technology roles.” Her team’s research into gender diversity in the tech industry has led her to agree with Schuster and others.

“We have a ways to go industry-wide,” said April, “And yet, on a hopeful front, we have also made great strides. For example, last year CompTIA’s workforce charity acquired fellow non-profit TechGirlz, which inspires middle school girls to explore careers in technology.”

Personalizing the progress, April adds, “As the mother of two girls, these efforts encourage me.”

Also taking a personal interest is Stacy Nethercoat, Senior VP of Cloud Solutions at Tech Data. “My perspective on women in tech, particularly having been a women’s hackathon judge and mentor over the last several years, as the mother of a young woman studying software development, and as the mother of a young man who works in the IT Channel and reports directly to a woman (who also reports to a woman), is that women are doing  great things in tech, and women are innovators.”

Nethercoat reports that Tech Data launched what they call an E3 campaign – to Engage, Encourage, and Elevate the role of women in tech. “Elevate regularly partners on events with groups such as Girls Who Code, the Girl Scouts, PACE center for girls and others to support young women interested in tech. We also support many female-oriented groups such as CASA to support and empower women to overcome hardship.”

Nethercoat offers this guidance for the three Es:

  • Engage: Spend 30 minutes a month networking and supporting a female colleague on a variety of topics as an Advocacy Coach, or raise your hand to be elevated yourself
  • Encourage: Spend 5 minutes a month congratulating a woman on a win or success using Bravo! and tag #TechDataElevate
  • Elevate: Spend 1 minute a week “elevating” a woman among leadership, peers, and others

Corporate culture needs to change

Amy Babinchak, President of Harbor Computer Services, said the tech industry is “worse than when I joined it in the late 1990s. Women are getting technical degrees, but then leaving and much of that has to do with the corporate culture. As a longtime male-dominated industry, it grew up with certain characteristics that many women don’t work well within.”

“Overall, the state of diversity in the workplace is still abysmal,” agrees Christine Bongard, President of The WIT Network. “Pay inequity is still an issue.  We need for women in the workplace to be sponsored and prepared for leadership positions, the C-Suite and Corporate Boards. Investing in skilling up and coaching these women, including building confidence to take on these positions, is all important right now.”

Bongard points out, “The future workforce is women, as we are 51% of the population. We need to do more to entice and excite young women to visualize successful and rewarding careers in technology. We need to make connections and create programs to skill women returning to the workforce (veterans, women returning from childcare leave and previously incarcerated women).  If we can start to make some headway with these approaches we can hopefully see some positive change for a more gender balanced industry.”

In two short years Bongard’s non-profit organization has grown from 1,000 to 5,000 members, 40-50 local communities around the world, members in 53 countries and 300 unique organizations.

A crisis

Pattie Grimm is today President & CEO of Advantage Training, Ltd.. For 15 years, she served the IT channel as Director of Customer, Partner Sales Excellence. Training and Talent Development at Microsoft.

“Right now we are facing a crisis for many women and the biggest threat to our fight for equity, access, and parity in 100 years,” Grimm said.

Here are nine scary facts on the current state of women in the workplace that might surprise a few people:

  1. Women’s pay has only increased 1% in the last decade and women still earn 64-81 cents per dollar for the same job as men.

  2. Many of the great strong women in tech are leaving their corporate gigs and starting their own companies.

  3. According to the World Economic Forum, if women were paid equally, it would be worth 12 TRILLION dollars to the global economy.

  4. 1 in 4 women are considering downsizing their career or leaving the workplace due to COVID-19.

  5. There are still 13 states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment from the 1970s and some states are fighting.

  6. More women are graduating and moving into STEM or tech roles but many more are leaving.

  7. Women are not advancing up to the higher C-suite level roles, and the number of women in tech is in the low teens at best.

  8. Women’s voices are still not being heard in meetings.

  9. Companies with more women at senior levels (and not VP of HR) are more profitable, have higher employee engagement and better customer loyalty.

Grimm articulates the common concern among women in leadership at each of these organizations supporting the role of women in tech. She also provides a very instructive set of definitions to help keep us on track:

  • Diversity is being invited to the meeting.

  • Equity is being given a seat at the table.

  • Inclusion is being given a decision making voice at the table.

Howard M. Cohen
Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry who writes for and about the IT channel. He’s a frequent speaker at IT industry events, including Microsoft Inspire, Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon, and he frequently hosts and presents webinars for many vendors and publications.

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