I still remember my first job as a systems engineer in a bank. I was the only woman in the entire floor of the IT department. When work was required in the server room, I was often excluded from those tasks because it was considered a “man’s job”; and if they started talking about “go-live” and midnight switchovers, they did not expect me to show up (and at the time, doing things “remotely” was not an option).
Millennials like myself didn’t have enough female role models in tech when growing up. Not because women had no interest in technology or weren’t smart enough, but because it was a male-dominated space; the culture and challenges kept women away from technology and from rising into tech leadership positions. Once I started my career, I decided to take on the responsibility to encourage girls to pursue their dreams, whether in technology, engineering, analytics, or any other industry considered male-driven. And it means so much more to me now, as I want to change things for my daughter and give future generations of women the tools and inspiration to realize their dreams.
The Tech Industry Needs Women
I recently read an article in The New York Times, where it mentioned how Microsoft almost took their Kinect product (an Xbox gaming system in which users played with gestures and spoken commands rather than a controller) to market in 2010 despite it failing to recognize motions of women and children; it had only been tested on men ages 18 to 35!
How did they overlook these segments? “This is what happens when teams aren’t diverse” concluded Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, from the incident.
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology: “Gender diversity positively correlates with better innovation and increased business performance. Increasing the number of women in technology and computing also has the potential to improve the design of products and services to better serve a more diverse population”.
So, is your company up to the challenge?
Unique Challenges Require Unique Solutions
Below are some of the unique challenges women face in the technology workplace, as well as some solutions I’ve seen be successful.
Being a woman in tech means you sometimes have to deal with not being taken seriously in the industry due to gender perceptions. I know I faced that sometimes.
Solution: InfoTrust embraces diversity as one of the core values and as an important aspect of our company. Here at InfoTrust, we strive to be empathetic to each person’s viewpoint and to learn from others’ experiences by seeking feedback.
Being a woman could mean you want to transition into motherhood at some point, and corporate America often doesn’t make this easy on new moms. According to Working Mothers magazine, more than a third (37 percent) of new moms wanted to quit when they returned to work after maternity leave.
Solution: InfoTrust makes sure that moms get all the time they need when transitioning into their new motherhood role while being able to keep their careers. Our organization provides 12 weeks off (paid), followed by 12 weeks at a reduced work schedule (also paid at normal salary, for both moms and dads). This 6 months of coverage reduces the stress on the family during the profound transition into parenthood.
Once that baby grows up, moms and dads are usually faced with the guilt of missing parent-teacher conferences, or not being able to be there for their kids at a school events due to work schedules.
Solution: InfoTrust’s policies and perks go above and beyond to support working parents. Respecting school holidays, dropoff and pickup times when scheduling meetings, no training after hours, and summer Fridays are a few of the many ways that InfoTrust strives to bring balance to its parent employees.
Other women reported leaving the workforce due to the demands of caring for elderly parents, especially those in the sandwich generation, dealing with life challenges between growing children and aging parents.
Solution: InfoTrust understands that life doesn’t only happen after 5 p.m. or on weekends. Flexible work schedules and part-time flexibility is unmatched. As a matter of fact, if an employee needs that extra time at home and decides to work part-time, he/she still has benefits! Paid vacation, participation in the retirement plan, and bonus and profit-sharing plan are still offered if you decide to work part-time to get some balance in your life.
It Starts and Ends With Culture
Fast-forward 15 years into my career. Aside from all the fun work I do with analytics for our clients here at InfoTrust, I:
- Have two kids under 6 years;
- Volunteer with the TECH CORPS Analytics Program (Analytics professionals working together to develop an exciting analytics-based curriculum summer program for K-12 students and teachers);
- Serve as a mentor and volunteer in the Women In Analytics program in the Digital Analytics Association (DAA);
- And lead a project to create a Maturity Model for Supporting Women in Tech (DAA and EQUALs model to rank tech companies on gender fairness and helping them progress and achieve maturity in parental policies, bias reporting, integrated gender equality into infrastructure, programs, and processes).
But the most important thing is, with all of this happening, I’m still able to win that life-work balance challenge, something that historically deterred women away from tech jobs.
Did I show up when my kids’ daycare wanted a mystery reader last week? Yes, I did, and my kids were overjoyed by the surprise that mommy is doing storytime in their classroom (picture below).
How am I winning it? I proudly say that InfoTrust allows me to have a flexible schedule, work part time with benefits, and fully supports my work with DAA.
A big part of culture is to know what you stand for, and once you know, every decision is easy.
I think that’s how IntroTrust really excelled at company culture. No wonder this is the third year in a row that InfoTrust earns Great Place to Work Certification.
InfoTrust’s culture makes it a great time to be a woman in analytics, setting a great example for the tech companies! I am thrilled to see how over the years, the technology industry is taking big steps to close the gender equality gap, fostering and embracing new cultures to create a more balanced future for the next generation.