As a woman in tech, I have been involved in several initiatives to encourage girls and women in STEM or in tech. But while they are well intentioned, they are not yet successful. How do we know? The proportion of women in IT is substantially unchanged since the 1990s - and lower than in the 1980s. The linked article quotes 21% of IT professionals and 12.5% of engineers. I agree with Martha Lane Fox, progress is not where it should be.
Not only women: many groups find it harder to progress in the tech industry. There is not as much data, but once you're aware, you notice diversity problems for lots of communities. Most difficult are the intersectional challenges: being black and ADHD, or trans and disabled, make life and career extra hard.
But we must not give up. Here are a few suggestions to try in your business:
Challenge the impact of xxx in STEM programmes. Ask earlier cohorts what could be improved
Make sure initiatives around senior roles include both management and technical streams. Otherwise you risk cannibalising one to improve the other
Review your recruiting posts for inclusive language. For example: https://blog.ongig.com/diversity-and-inclusion/inclusive-job-descriptions/
Support senior women in outreach activities. Encourage them to be visible and to take time away from the day job
Advocate parental leave and school-friendly hours for all parents, make it normal to take time out of the workforce for any family situation, not just for women
Above all, review career paths. Think about how you assess the team at the end of the year. Anyone who is in a senior role or moving towards it will be asked to show leadership. Review how work is allocated. Is everyone in the team being given similar chances to contribute and lead? Do certain jobs go to the same few people?
Review internal progression rates. Are the ratios of a particular community the same at junior and senior levels? If there are more juniors, it means there's a good opportunity to grow them internally without needing to wait for a hiring cycle
There are no easy answers, but you can still help. Aim to listen more than you tell. Ask your team: what do they need from you? What is working for them? What isn't? Assume all your team have untapped potential. What can you do to unlock it?