Talent Circles

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Learn to play nice with girls in tech playgrounds

Come to think of it, they’ve been all men. Unshaven men wearing “Alcatraz” t-shirts and smelling of taco trucks and Mountain Dew and playing Rock Band or World of Warcraft or Words with Friends.

Okay, that’s a unfair exaggeration, and my apologies to my tech brethren, but it is true that every single technology company I’ve talked shop with of late has had all men creating system architecture, managing IT infrastructure, setting up databases, working out UI, crunching code, fixing bugs and dressing up the software.

All men, with the exception of one recent interaction where there was one woman in a development team of six. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen more female founders and CEO’s in Silicon Valley than actual practicing technology professionals, so that may make more of a difference at some point.

In fact, most of my career in tech marketing, HR and recruiting has included more female counterparts than men. Although certainly not equal, there were more women in the workforce the last two years outpacing men – and of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S., all but two are occupied primarily by women.

However, in a recent article about IT professionals, “while hard numbers related to the number of women who work in high-tech as technical support or managers in the private and public sectors in the U.S. today are hard to come by, some studies estimate women constitute 15% to 25% of the ranks at most, and about 8% of managers…To be sure, women in the U.S. aren't coming out of undergraduate and graduate programs in computers sciences in huge numbers. As of 2009, only 18% of graduates in computer science were women, according to the report.”

Time to evolve, gentlemen. My two little girls, both of whom take smart device usability to uncanny levels, may want to be in tech someday and I’m going to be right there urging them on through school and into their careers (and I will battle you, my tech brethren). According to a recent study by the Anita Borg Institute, an organization dedicated to increasing the role of women in technology, there needs to be a culture shift inside companies today. They need to recruit from bigger candidate pools and advertise positions more neutrally, removing stereotypes and culture references that tell “diverse” candidates to stay away. When hiring, make sure that at least one woman is in the running for every tech job as well as being a part of the recruiting and hiring management teams.

We’re not talking rocket science here. In fact, it can all easily start online today with talent networks, circles, pools, communities, playgrounds even – whatever you want to call them. You can attract like-minded people, male and female alike, interested in specific yet gender-neutral careers, skills, hobbies, technologies, your brand – you name it. Let them communicate with one another, challenge one another without malice, commiserate and collaborate about career commonalities, whether they apply for a job with you today, tomorrow or a year from now (or never).

Of course you’ll promote your brand – you should never stop promoting your brand – but with women dominating today’s colleges and professional schools (for every two men who will receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same), I recommend you learn how to play nice with girls in tech playgrounds.


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