As part of Solutions Review’s Expert Insights Series—a collection of contributed articles written by industry experts in enterprise software categories—Liat Hortig, the Chief People Officer at Torii, delves into the ways companies can support lasting change by investing and promoting women in tech.
It’s a social stigma that has prevailed and been dissected for decades—the challenges of being a woman in the male-dominated tech industry. While strides have been made during my 20+ years in the industry, many women still have an uphill battle about underrepresentation, underpay, and, yes, even cases of discrimination and harassment. The fact remains that women lag behind their male counterparts when it comes to prominence in tech, or more broadly, the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workforce.
Evidence is everywhere. According to the World Bank, women make up just 28 percent of the global STEM labor pool. This is primarily due to women only accounting for 19 percent of graduates with degrees in STEM fields. Hiring bias is another potential issue. (According to one survey, 65 percent of tech recruiters believe bias is an ongoing problem).
Clearly, there are hurdles to overcome, both from educational and professional perspectives. The wage gap persists even for women who have advanced in their field in prominent roles. As a result, women are leaving the tech industry at a 45 percent higher rate than men. The gender gap is also evident in the startup industry, where male-led tech companies raise billions more in VC funding than those led by women.
Leading the Charge for Change
Companies must make a concerted effort to instill the importance of workplace diversity—from top to bottom and across departments. We are proud that 45 percent of Torii’s employees are women and, equally important, that 77 percent of Torii’s director roles are held by women—including in non-traditional areas such as sales, product management, and engineering. Our promotion rates also reflect a positive growth not often seen at tech companies.
More than just being an outlier, however, it is vital that our company, and others, celebrate the achievements of prominent, groundbreaking women in tech while also providing ample career opportunities for newcomers to learn and grow.
One avenue we’ve found very helpful is the creation of a Women+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), a safe place for meaningful discussions on the challenges and opportunities women have in this industry and how we can help both inside and outside the workplace. An ERG such as this can provide support and mentorship, promote collaboration, and encourage the advancement of women. For instance, our ERG leads outreach programs, such as donating laptops to STEM and entrepreneurship-focused organizations, including the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which empowers young women and gender-expansive youth in NYC.
Getting involved in youth initiatives is crucial for building greater diversity in tech to spread awareness and reach young, aspirational women early in their development.
Creating a Culture for Inclusion
Organizations that are serious about supporting women in the workplace need to make this more than just a motto, but rather, a part of their culture. What do I mean by culture? Beyond prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the hiring process and being committed to gender equality regarding pay scales, promotions, etc., culture also means offering a flexible work environment. Whether allowing employees to work remotely or building their schedules around their personal needs (e.g., working mothers), businesses must be committed to fostering a positive and accommodating work/life balance.
Advice for Young Techies-To-Be
One of the most important things for young women to remember, as obvious as it may sound, is to have confidence. This is good advice for many walks of life, particularly in the tech industry, where women are still fighting stereotypes and biases about their abilities. At this point, however, that is all they are—false stereotypes and biases rooted in the past.
With that confidence (based on their education or early career achievements), women should also be assertive and not afraid to speak up, whether they seek a promotion or merely recognition for their work. Women should also not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone by taking on more challenging projects or leadership roles.
While a lot of this may sound individualistic, that does not mean women should feel they are alone. Building mentor relationships is also crucial for any young woman carving out her career in tech. While this may emerge inside the workplace, it can also result from networking at industry events or joining professional (women or non-specific) organizations.
Beyond building connections, women should continuously seek opportunities to hone their skills. Whether through taking courses, attending workshops, or participating in online communities, there is so much new to learn and so many willing to share.
How Men Can Help, Too
If you’re a man and still reading up to this point — good! Beyond what women can do on their own, there are several areas where men in tech can be supportive and inspirational. For starters, men need to be aware of their own unconscious biases about women’s traditional roles. While a company can have a solid diversity and inclusion initiative in place, it takes the awareness and dedication of every employee for equality to become the norm and truly take hold.
Men can overcome ingrained tendencies by becoming mentors/sponsors for women at their companies. This includes providing guidance and feedback and supporting women for growth and advancement. It’s also important to speak out against discrimination and educate oneself on the barriers women face. This helps build empathy and enables men to become better allies for their female colleagues.
If you’re a woman reading this article and still unsure if the tech industry is right for you, consider all the above and more. Is work-life balance important to you? For the most part, tech companies try to make this possible with perks like remote work, generous PTO, and flexible hours.
How about opportunities for learning and impacting the world? While the industry is competitive, women have many opportunities to showcase their ingenuity and work on cutting-edge technologies and products that transform everyday life and how businesses function. If you have dreams of becoming an innovator or an entrepreneur, there can be a place for you in tech.
One last thing. While inclusion is essential, no one must look at diversity as a handout or a way to even the playing field. Studies have shown that diverse teams are more innovative and productive than homogeneous ones. By bringing unique perspectives, inventive ideas, and problem-solving skills to the table, there is no limit to what women can achieve in the tech industry.
- Promoting Women in Tech: How to Make Lasting Change - May 25, 2023