By Amina Begum, director, strategic projects and GTM, Xandr
Technology plays a role in every aspect of our society and affects us all. So, it only makes
sense that there should be diversity across roles in big tech companies to make sure all
audiences are catered to. Whilst this sounds simple in practice, there’s still a lot of work to
be done to achieve equity for women in the workplace. As we come out of the other side of
the pandemic and the great resignation, women have more options than ever when
deciding which workplace is best for them. Tech companies need to make sure they are set
up to retain and recruit female talent and ensure a more inclusive workplace.
Getting the basics right
In the workplace, gender biases still exist in the most fundamental of places. Pay
transparency continues to be a discussion point with a continued lack of transparency at
some tech companies, leading to the continued disparity in pay for men and women in the
same roles. There is hope though. In 2017, the UK Government and Equality Office
introduced the gender pay gap reporting – a requirement for companies to report
discrepancies in pay for men and women in their workforce where their headcount exceeds
250 employees. Some tech companies are taking this further. In the US, Microsoft have
announced their commitment to publicly disclose salary ranges on both internal and
external job postings in the US starting January 2023. This is a great start, as data shows that
not only are women less likely to negotiate an offer they are given, if they do negotiate,
there is a ‘social cost’ (essentially a negative perception) associated to that negotiation
which is not an issue for men. Companies who are more transparent with their staff about
salary ranges, open the opportunity to level the playing field.
If starting with transparent salary ranges is the first step, the second would be to provide
guidance internally as staff move up the career ladder on what they can expect to earn. Too
often, great employees move on because it’s easier to negotiate salary for a completely new
role than to get clarity on their existing situation. To ensure true equality, companies should
look to do regular internal reviews, ensuring all staff working across the same areas are paid
equally regardless of gender and race.
It’s not just the compensation package that needs to be considered when thinking
specifically around retaining women. The pandemic has introduced new norms and ways of
working: hybrid working being one of them.
Whilst the flexibility provided by hybrid and remote working has benefitted many
employees, for women, it’s afforded them to be able to effectively do their jobs whilst also
being able to manage the invisible labour that tends to fall on them (e.g. being a primary
caregiver). As companies start to put a stake in the ground with regards to being back in the
office or offering hybrid and remote options, including women into these conversations is
going to be important in designing workplaces that are somewhere women not only feel
comfortable but see themselves able to stay and grow their careers.
The reasons for wanting flexibility differ person to person; it could be leaving early for a
school run or working abroad for a couple of weeks in the summer. Whatever the reasons,
true flexibility comes where the person taking flexibility isn’t penalised for making use of it.
The pandemic has shown us that the tech sector, more than any other, has the tools to
work effectively whether at ‘home’ or in the office. Those looking for flexibility will be
looking at companies who have embraced new norms, show trust in their employees and
puts forward a people first approach.
Breaking through the glass ceiling
While we have more women in leadership positions in technology than ever before, the
further up the leadership chain you go, the less representation there is. We know that
having women in leadership adds diversity of thinking, gives other’s roles models to aspire
to and ultimately has a positive impact on the bottom line. There is a long way to go to
breaking the glass ceiling, companies need to take the approach of equity; actively making
space for women at leadership levels and ensuring career planning to retain the women
already there. Men can support in this effort by not only being a mentor and ally to women,
but by sponsoring women whether that’s choosing to give women high visibility projects,
building a case for promotion, or inviting women to the table where they’ve been excluded.
People want to work for companies where leadership is representative of who they are –
companies should be taking note of this. If they haven’t already, they should be
implementing business goals within their organisations to hold themselves accountable.
This is the only way to tell if positive change is happening.
Whilst positive strides are being made forward, so much more needs to be done to achieve
equity in the workplace. Ensuring pay transparency, workplace flexibility and having women
in leadership are vital not only in attracting women to technology, but a more diverse
population in general. The technology industry like all others requires diversity in its
workforce to drive innovation. Following the global pandemic and the shift in working
mindset, now is a great time for companies to start acting on some of these changes so they
can make for a more inclusive workplace.