by Darlene Bennett Greene
The software community needs to step up its discussion around the treatment and role of women in the industry, because conditions aren’t improving.
That was the word from Darlene Bennett Greene, a participant in a PNSQC webinar in March. Greene, a leadership and communications consultant, former McAfee VP and a retired U.S. Navy Commander, will be among the featured speakers at PNSQC 2016. Her presence at the fall conference is sure to spark further discussion around her “cracking the code” topic, the code being how to fully integrate women into the tech community.
She pulled no punches during the webinar, chastising the tech community for continuing to ignore its poor treatment of women and calling for a renewed effort to bridge the gender gap. Following are excerpts from the webinar.
Research tells us that when we create a company culture where women have a voice, that companies are 89 percent more likely to unleash women’s innovative potential. Leaders who ensure that women get constructive feedback are 128 percent more likely to elicit breakthrough ideas.
But those conditions are the exception today, not the rule. The situation we have currently is that companies are not maximizing women’s potential and the added value of having them on the team.
Three significant issues are driving this negative trend:
- The need for skilled technologists, a need that is growing more and more critical as companies incorporate technology into everyday services and products.
- An increasingly large number of gap positions that remain unfilled due to critical technology skills shortages.
- In spite of all of our efforts to recruit and retain more women in the technology industry, they are leaving as quickly as they are entering it.
If we don’t figure out how to solve this workforce deficiency it’s going to get worse. What is the end result? Productivity will decline, and stress and strain on the current workforce will increase.
We do have small pockets of success in the industry that need to be highlighted and duplicated. I’m asking those who have cracked the code to please share your stories at this year’s conference. Even if it’s just a department and not company wide, by sharing it, you can get that flywheel going. Sharing these kinds of stories will make a difference not just for the team and your company, but the entire industry.
In my discussions with women, they experience similar challenges to the ones I faced in the military. They have to fight for a real job. They have to fight for equal training. They have very few role models above them who are doing what they are doing, and maybe being married and having a family.
They experience solicitations. They experience inappropriate touching and comments. As much as no one wants to talk about that, those are the types of disappointments and frustrations that are so exhausting in cumulative way that many of them are just opting out.
Time after time, well-intentioned bosses of these women are just completely unaware. They don’t even know that there’s a problem in their department or their company. The only indicator they have that there is a problem is that the number of women is too small.
Gender training has been one approach that companies have taken to address this uncracked code. But gender training can be a two-edged sword. It can sometimes backfire, providing only a temporary change. It can also further segregate women from men in the workplace by focusing on the differences rather than the need to create opportunities for all.
You’ve got women who don’t want to bring up these subjects because they’re trying to blend in and don’t want their gender to be an issue that could be even more significantly affecting their teaming with partners and get them labeled as problems.
There’s a pressing parallel to this situation. It was only when the draft ended and the force of volunteer men was no longer a large enough pool to remain sustainable that the military began working on the challenging task of recruiting and retaining women. With the worldwide shortage of technological skills and the exploding need, I’m wondering if we’re finally at a breaking point where the issue of women in technology will rise to a point of reckoning.
My one ask is to help us break that code, help us attract, support, integrate and retain women. Bring your success stories—and your failures—to PNSQC 2016. Let’s crack that code together!