Diversity drives performance. There are years of research demonstrating that diverse teams and organisations deliver at a higher level than non-diverse teams. As covered in a recent BCG research paper Women in leadership can drive profitability up by 9% points.
There is a well documented shortage of women in technology and in technology leadership. How do we get women to the top of tech? BCG did a study with 457 women tech leaders and 300 men to explore this more. It transpires that early career development and wins are crucial for women.
In the USA, women make up almost half of the workforce (47%), but only make up 28% of the leadership positions in technology. These numbers are from research pre-pandemic, so are expected to look worse now with women having shouldered a disproportionate share of childcare over the last two years.
There are often suggestions that women aren’t as ambitious as men, and aren’t seeking leadership positions. However, research suggests very similar levels of ambition for leadership roles, with 62% of women and 67% of men in a recent BCG study trying for promotion.
Given that a lack of perceived competence is one of the main reasons women give for leaving the industry, it comes as no surprise that the timing of a woman’s first promotion is crucial to whether she makes it to senior management or not. While a man’s third promotion was deemed to be the most critical in his career progression, for women, it was deemed to be the first promotion.
While both men and women rated setting a vision and motivating teams were the most important factors for receiving promotion, men perceived that technical competency half as important as women did. It is not uncommon for women in the industry to be told they’re “not technical enough”, and it appears that this message has been strongly heard by women. There is a need for women to tout their technical capabilities and accomplishments to those who are making decisions regarding promotion, but there is also a lot of space for organisations to use clear and fair frameworks for growth.
Organisations have a LOT of work to do, but there are some things you can personally do while they’re working things out.
1. Make your ambition known. Talk to your mentors and managers about it. Talk to your friends and peers.
2. If a promotion opportunity comes up, apply for it! Even if you don’t meet all the criteria.
3. Be active in the community and look for ways to broaden your skill set both within and external to your organisation.
4. Have at least one mentor, and aim to keep this relationship for a long time. Men are twice as likely to have had their mentor for over 5 years than women are.
5. Get good at talking about your accomplishments, both technical and non-technical, to your manager. Ask for concrete feedback regarding your leadership skills.
Studies suggest that around 25% of diverse people say they receive no benefit from D&I programs in their organisations, we should look at things differently.
A woman’s first promotion appears to be influential on their entire technical career, and at the same time women are told that they aren’t technical enough. A purpose built tech career growth framework is needed to help remove bias and ensure that promotions are based on measurable merit. These frameworks help managers have an open dialogue with staff about their skills, talents, areas for improvement, ambition and goals. They enable organisations to have trust that they are promoting the best people and help with staff development and retention.
If you’re interested in finding out more about tech specific career growth frameworks, get in touch with us here.