According to a recent study conducted by the American Association of University Women, a non-profit which promotes gender equality, only 26% of technology jobs in the United States are held by women. This is down from 35% held in 1990.
Given these numbers, it is obvious that women are vastly underrepresented in the technology workforce. But why the shortage of women in the field? According to the 2017 Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), there are five barriers that contribute to the lack of female presence in the field. According to survey respondents, the top five barriers experienced by women in tech are:
- Lack of mentors (48%)
- Lack of female role models in the field (42%)
- Gender bias in workplace (39%)
- Unequal growth opportunities compared to men (36%)
- Unequal pay for the same skills (35%)
Shelby Spencer, Head of Business Transformation & Technology for Briotix, was recently recognized by Zoho for her work in breaking down these barriers for other women in technology. We spoke with her about how she and Briotix are working to combat these barriers.
Q: How is Briotix working to ensure gender equality in technology?
A: In the Business Transformation Group (BTG), we are very intentional about our recruiting and hiring practices. We have put a structure in place that ensures we are looking at qualified candidates of both genders for any open position. In BTG, our rule is that for every one qualified male candidate we interview, we must have a female candidate to interview. This often means we have to be proactive in going out and identifying candidates to ensure we are balanced. We work our various networks to actively recruit female candidates when we have openings.
Q: Why is it critical to a company to work towards gender equality in technology?
A: Beyond just gender equality, at BTG we believe the best team is a diverse team in all aspects. When a team is diverse in gender, race and background, we get the best ideas and results for our clients. However, having a diverse and gender equal team is only the first step. At Briotix, we also work diligently to ensure all voices are heard and incorporated. It is critical to empower all voices throughout the organization regardless of gender or position.
Q: How is the BTG able to ensure all voices are empowered and heard?
A: BTG has developed our structure to ensure everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. We are very deliberate with one-on-ones and professional development. Every employee participates in both. Additionally, we require everyone to have a peer/counterpart review of their work, regardless of project. This gives an opportunity to collaborate and generate new ideas. We work very hard to make it the norm that everyone shares their thoughts. Openness is driven by leadership to create a culture that is inclusive.
Q: Personally, why is it so important to you that women be brought to the table in the technology field?
A: I’ve grown up in the technology field. I know what if feels like to be the only one of something – race, gender, class – in the room. It feels terrible and lonely. In the STEM fields, as a woman, you become accustomed to this feeling. Even when working on a progressive team which treats you as an equal, it still does not feel good to be the only one.
I was coached and mentored by some wonderful women who made sure I didn’t feel that way often. I want to ensure I am actively working to do this for others. Whether that’s taking the time to simply answer questions from women in the field, or intentionally and proactively sharing information to move the field forward.
Briotix has an inclusive culture that brings out the best in employees and has been deliberate about gender equality at an organizational level. This wasn’t always the case in most organizations. Without the guidance and advice of many strong, female leaders in the technology field, I may not be here. I am proud that our company has more females than men in the technology department. I want to do everything I can to ensure all women can work at a place where gender bias, barriers and prejudices are removed.