Early in my career, I spent 10+ years working in the technology industry in marketing, product development and business development roles. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of coaching dozens of women executives from across the industry and I’ve been an invited speaker at about two dozen well-known global companies, including Intel, Microsoft, Intuit and VMWare.
In that time, I have identified a few key trends in the experiences (and complaints) of women working across the tech industry. Given that it’s Women in Tech month, I thought it would be appropriate to share these 4 ideas for personal and corporate change as a starting point for how we can attract and retain more women in tech.
The number one complaint, overwhelmingly, among women leaders in the tech industry is they are darn sick and tired of being interrupted in meetings (and on panels) by their male colleagues. If the culture were such that interrupting was never tolerated, a whole lot more women would stay and be happier every day.
This one is closely intertwined with the first. Almost every woman I know will tell you a story of outlining a great idea in a meeting only to have everyone overlook it. Then, when a few minutes has passed, one of her male colleagues will say the exact same thing and everyone will say, “great idea” as if they’ve never heard it before. This completely undermines women’s motivation to show up or say anything in the next meeting.
The women I have spoken with frequently tell me that their company has a ‘face time culture’ – the boss seems to overly value seeing your face in the office late at night, early in the morning and on weekends. Since we all know that time at work is not the same as time being productive, this seems like the wrong thing to be valuing. What it does do is allow young, male go-getters – who seem to have nothing better to do than be at work – to shine, even when they are not actually using the work time to do anything productive. Others – particularly moms or people who actually have a life outside of work – get dinged for not staying late, even when they have already gotten their work done.
Part of the reason that there are so many men in the tech industry is that we all prefer to work with people who are a lot like us. We look for and hire people who went to the same school, were in the same fraternity, someone we’ve worked with before or someone who reminds us of us in some way. This tendency is exacerbated when there are generous bonuses offered to people who bring in others to work in the company. This seems like a great hiring and retention strategy but it fosters more and more of the same. If we rewarded people instead for hiring their opposite, we’d see a very different culture being fostered. After all, there is one key thing I learned in business school – if you want to change the culture, change the reward structure.
Think about your own culture. Which of these behaviors are you ignoring, rewarding, or even incentivizing? What’s one step you can take today to make a change?
Denise Brosseau is an author, speaker and executive coach. She is the CEO of Thought Leadership Lab where she works with executives and entrepreneurs who want to accelerate their journey from leader to thought leader. She is the author of Ready to Be a Thought Leader? (Wiley 2014) and in 2012, she was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change. Find her at www.thoughtleadershiplab.com.
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