Naomi Bloom: How HR can drive Gender Balance in Tech
Achieving Gender Balance in Tech
Naomi is a tech sector veteran, business and platform strategic advisor, market influencer, blogger and speaker about enterprise HR technology and outsourcing. As my insights into enterprise technology can be written on the back of a SIM card and would have made for a very short conversation, we agreed to discuss a subject about which we are both passionate.
The issue of gender balance in tech. Or rather the lack thereof.
The good news
The first piece of good news came from Coupofy who announced that in certain companies women were actually being hired in greater numbers and men in so-called tech roles. I even emailed to check that this was in tech roles, not pink and service functions. I was told this was the case. Naomi agreed this was a great start, but felt there was still a long way to go.
The not so good news
Although hiring women into tech is important, Naomi's focus is on retention and advancement. The exodus of women in tech according to many sources of research, can be attributable to a number of reasons. These include a not intentional, but nonetheless hostile male culture, the gender pay gap, a feeling of isolation from being out numbered, the lack of effective sponsors, and the lack of sufficient role models.
Naomi agreed with this. She said she didn't think the environmental hostility was deliberate, but companies could do much more to create an inclusive environment and to be more aware that it exists. She describes the culture as "subtly male." Even basics such as making the office décor more gender balanced would make a difference. She maintains she can identify the corporate culture the minute she walks in the door of any company. If the interview panel for a software engineer is all men, the women are in HR or marketing, the pictures on the wall are all men and the break out room is "a gamers paradise" and lacks any feminine touches, all of these send very subliminal messages of non-inclusion.
Pursuing the theme of the conference for putting the humanity back into HR, which was shared across the board by all senior figures from Sir Richard Branson to Josh Bersin, it remains a mystery why certain basics seem to be a challenge, across the sector.
Naomi emphasized the thoughts of these key players and re-iterated the need for flexible working hours, equal compensation and a respectful working culture and environment. These will go a long way towards the engagement and retention of women in tech and benefit the men too. She really expects leaders to set the tone and for changes in the culture to come from the top, to find real balance to create a workplace "where both men and women thrive." The top 3 areas of focus she felt should be:
- Management training
- Role models
"It's really important to promote women to senior levels so that they can lead from the top from CTO roles. There is a lot of good talent in the pipeline, but as a we sector are losing it"
This impression was supported by research carried out by Coupofy
With gamification to increase employee engagement being one of the hot conference topics, we discussed whether this would stem the declining numbers and if the women in tech would buy into these concepts. We shared some doubts. The prevalence of masculine coded words in the gamification lexicon such as "heroes" and "winners" are not likely to be highly attractive to women. I spoke to one entrepreneur in this field who suggested that more inclusive themes would be something they could work on and would be on the way.
Perhaps sooner rather than later would be better.
As it is, the sector is losing female talent at a harmful rate, and this does have significant bottom line impact. Naomi's parting thoughts were that combining the best of the technology mind set with the HR mind set, these issues are very "correctable."
Raising "sensibilities" and creating awareness, should now be a top HR priority in the tech sector.
For corporate support for gender balanced short lists and unconscious bias training contact 3Plus.
What do you think HR can do to improve gender balance in tech?
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