It’s important that companies invest time in creating a positive culture for women in tech, but what should they do to achieve this?
With tech companies constantly battling for top talent, the need for a strong and positive company culture has become bigger than ever.
A good culture no longer simply says ‘work hard, play hard’, it’s more about creating a safe, meaningful and supportive space for diverse people from any background to work in.
There are many layers to bringing this together, so to even focus on one element and ensure it’s doing the job it should be doing takes time. How strong do you think your culture is when it comes to women in tech?
A vast number of companies have women’s support groups to ensure their female employees are supported. But is it enough to simply start a group and let it do its thing?
One such group is Inspire, an initiative started in 2017 in Donegal-based financial services firm Pramerica. The initiative aims to provide a collaborative forum for women working within the company, offering opportunities for them to expand their network and further their career.
Jayne Spalding is a business systems analyst working in robotic process automation in Pramerica, and is a member of Inspire. “The women in the Inspire group have a range of roles within Pramerica, many having achieved significant merits within the technology world,” she said. “Membership is fluid and open to any woman across the company regardless of their experience or tenure at Pramerica. Witnessing the success of these women in the midst of home and life commitments was truly inspiring.”
Spalding said that although the group is amazing for career growth for women in tech, it’s also about personal development and developing skills outside of your day-to-day role. “Having such a great group of women around me helped create that self-belief,” she said. “Not only has my involvement in the group helped me to grow personally, but it has also shown me the immeasurable value to be taken from helping others grow and develop.”
The group uses both informal networking sessions and more structured mentoring to provide support to women. The team has also developed an initiative called Baby Steps to address the issues faced by women returning to the workplace after maternity leave.
Changing trends for women in tech
Women’s support groups are not just there to support women in the workplace in a general sense. They also play a valuable role in improving the wider workplace culture, boosting gender balance at a leadership level and encouraging more women to join industries that up to this point have had a serious gender gap.
“As we are all aware, the world of technology has largely been a male-dominated profession, particularly in the programming field,” said Spalding. “There is no reason this imbalance needs to be part of the future. The trick is changing perspectives and stereotypes at any early age; showing girls that this is a valid career choice and one that could open so many opportunities for their future.”
Spalding said she would advise any woman starting out in her career to join a group such as Inspire or even start their own networking group. “I learned the benefits of this rather late in life but imagine what could have been achieved had I known of such opportunities earlier!”
What do companies need to do?
It’s all well and good for women to take the initiative and start a group if their company doesn’t already have one. Equally, leadership teams could read this and decide it’s time they started this kind of group.
However, simply putting a group in place isn’t enough to change company culture. “For a women’s support group to thrive in the workplace, the host company needs to promote a culture of support and acceptance,” said Spalding. “Every group needs senior management support and buy-in. It takes a company with an understanding of the benefits of having a diverse workforce through all levels of management to embrace and benefit from this type of initiative.”
Having networking groups for like-minded people – women in tech being just one example – is an important way to ensure all employees thrive in their careers and feel supported while doing it. But it’s not enough to only have that support from their peers. To truly make a difference to your company at a macro level, the groups need to be backed by the company itself, and that comes from the top down.