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Sparking The Tipping Point: 4 Ways You Can Fight For Diversity & Inclusion

March is Women’s History Month, and we’re talking all things Diversity & Inclusion. Looking for more ways to join the conversation? Register for our upcoming Women in Leadership webcast—back by popular demand—featuring a powerhouse panel of four female leaders from across the business world. Join us as we strive to #BalanceforBetter.

Consider this: the majority of Americans own a television, smart phone, computer, and tablet computer—and, on top of this, a quarter of Americans also own e-readers. Then there are the millions of users who covet smart products such as wearable technology and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. As a society, we use a highly diverse set of technology tools every day.

But there’s a disturbing lack of diversity within the tech industry.

To be fair, there’s a lack of diversity among all business sectors. While women make up nearly half of the American workforce, female CEOs account for just five percent of Fortune 500 companies. According to McKinsey & Company, women are 18 percent less likely to get promoted to management positions—and this percentage drops even more for women of color.

It’s also much lower for women in tech.

In fact, while women make up 47% of the workforce, just 28 percent of proprietary software jobs are filled by women. According to Silicon Valley Bank’s 2017 Women in Technology Leadership report, 70 percent of U.S. firms don’t have any women on their boards, and more than half (54 percent) don’t have a single female executive.

Women only own five percent of tech startups, and many of the women who do break through cite rampant harassment from venture capitalists and extreme difficulty fundraising. In fact, according to the same SVB survey, 27 percent of startups founded by women reportedly found the fundraising environment “extremely challenging”–in contrast, just 15 percent of male-founded businesses felt the same.

And while this is all obviously bad news for the women attempting to build their careers in tech, it’s also bad news for the industry itself. Diversity in the workplace is proven to result in better problem-solving, creativity, market share and business outcomes. Diversity leads to diversified opinions, market insights, and business outcomes.

Different is powerful.

Also consider the fact that, just as women make the majority of purchasing decisions at home, women are a major player in technology consumption. Women spend more time than men on social media platforms, are less expensive to acquire as customers, and are 79 percent more likely than men to make in-app gaming purchases.

The bottom line? Women are highly lucrative customers, and without employing female developers, it’s very difficult for companies to understand and cater to them.

Prioritizing gender parity is the right thing to do, and it’s also good for business.

Ready to change the narrative? Here are four data-driven action steps organizations can take to radically improve gender equity at their organizations:

Support an inclusive talent pipeline. This starts from the first step of recruiting: the job description. Studies show that certain words and descriptions are more representative of one gender than another. Gender language bias in job postings can predict, with high accuracy, the gender of the person you’ll eventually hire. For example, “analyze” and “manage” typically draw male candidates; “collaborate” and “support” seem to resonate more with women. If you’re still having difficulty finding women or other diverse candidates in your pipeline, remember that internships are often a great opportunity to recruit female talent.

Audit your pay practices and current compensation structure. In addition to reviewing overall pay structure, it’s crucial to ensure consistency among policies for starting pay, merit increase policies, and promotional pay policies. Pay equity starts with the opening offer, but it’s ensured through a series of checks and balances that occur throughout the career cycle. While HR shouldn’t be solely responsible for these policies, it’s HR’s responsibility to ensure managers understand how to review and promote employees fairly and to consistently evaluate performance-ratings distributions and merit increases.

Encourage mentorship. Multiple meta-analyses show that individuals who participate in mentorship programs tend to have higher salaries, more frequent promotions, lower turnover, and more work satisfaction than their unmentored peers. Here, too, there’s a gender discrepancy, as women tend to benefit more from mentorship than men do. But they also seem to need it more due to the heightened barriers for advancement.

Just keep swimming. Fewer than 100 years ago, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women equal rights to men and ensuring their right to vote. At that time, spurred by World War I, women represented 21 percent of the workforce and were primarily staffed as secretaries, switchboard operators, in farming, or as department-store clerks.Centuries of inequality takes time to eradicate. The most important action any one person can take is to continue advocating for diversity, seeking opportunities to improve, and questioning policies or decisions that don’t adhere to your values.

If we can all commit to taking these steps in our organizations, we will pave the way for a much more inclusive tech industry for our daughters and granddaughters. And that’s a future worth fighting for.