Achieving gender equality in technology workplaces

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Workplace gender equality is often sensationalised, which detracts from the root cause of the problem

With polarising views that further separate men and women into two camps — us vs. them – it’s much harder to stop and take a deeper look into the solutions that will help us close the gap.

Even in a progressive and innovative environment such as Silicon Valley these issues still exist. Tech companies with higher male-to-female ratios greatly outnumber those with a more even distribution. In 2014 women in the US held only 26% of professional computing occupations and 6% of CIO positions.

Levelling the playing field when it comes to gender isn’t simply the right thing to do — it can set the stage for a more differentiated and competitive company. But for women to crack the glass ceiling in tech everyone must rally behind a shared goal.

Uniting around a common objective

Women bring new perspectives to the tech world, and passion is a language both sides can understand. In the end, uniting around mutual enthusiasm and a strong belief in an idea, product or disruptive innovation will funnel energies toward a common understanding and help close the gender gap.

Tracy Chou was the first to collect and openly disclose stats on workplace diversity at startups in 2014, shedding new light on the astounding lack of women in tech startups. Isis Wenger’s #iLookLikeanEngineer campaign also paved the way for more transparent conversations regarding stereotypes in tech, along with Sheryl Sandberg’s challenge to women in her TED talk and book Lean In.

The tech landscape is on the brink of gender redistribution. But to push the industry over the edge then it – and its human resource departments – must take a stand.

Forces of change

Based on earlier statistics, men are more frequently in a position of power to drive change for women in tech. And to make a dent in these numbers, they can’t be excluded from the conversation. Selecting a male mentor is a simple way to build mutual empathy. Seeking out opportunities to address gender perceptions head-on is beneficial to both sides.

The government is also a stakeholder in gender equality issues. While government should play a role in carving out more opportunities for women (by improving education and serving as positive reinforcement for women in tech) pigeonholing it as an issue for government to resolve isn’t the answer. Forcing laws and quotas on companies and creating the stigma that women have to be employed by law will only breed resentment. This may actually prove to be retroactive because it is influencing decisions for the wrong reasons, rather than merit and achievement.

Instead of pawning the issues off on government, we must change the conversation. The severe lack of women in tech isn’t an issue; it’s an opportunity for companies to sharpen their competitive edge by diversifying their talent.

Why HR should take an active role

HR leaders need to gain full company buy-in by encouraging and developing supportive men in the workplace, which will lead to results on a broader scale. By rallying entire teams around diversity efforts HR leaders can champion a more inclusive tech environment.

Although the stats paint a bleak picture for women in tech, that doesn’t mean we can’t break the chain by asking men to help lead the change along with us. Then we can effectively change things faster and on a bigger scale. As more HR leaders recognise the profitability in balancing out the gender ratio and invite more perspectives into open dialogues, these issues will naturally dissolve.

And with the entire industry on board, women can rise above the odds and spearhead a more diverse face of technology with the full support of their male counterparts.

Isabelle Guis is chief marketing and strategy officer at Egnyte

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