Aug 17 2022

As Women Advance in Tech, Change Must Continue

Industry leaders highlighted the value of diversity at CDW’s Women in Tech Leadership Forum.

The technology industry has been a challenging environment for women at times, but it is presenting new opportunities as organizations explore the value of diversifying their workforces and their executive ranks. “Actions are the best ally when it comes to creating opportunities for women in tech. Not only do they speak louder than words but they are the only way to create meaningful change” said Mary Ann Yule, president and CEO of HP Canada, who has spent her entire career in and around the technology sector.

Yule made her remarks July 21 at the Women in Tech Leadership Forum, hosted by CDW and in partnership with YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. The event featured a panel of speakers who addressed how organizations can remain competitive by attracting, supporting and retaining women in technology.

During the forum, the speakers noted that while women have made strides in the IT industry, there are still opportunities to foster more diverse talent — and to face the equity challenges exacerbated by the global pandemic.

Mary Ann Yule
There’s been this history of being excluded in the technology space, but it’s truly an amazing environment for women to thrive.”

Mary Ann Yule President and CEO, HP Canada

A 2021 report from the Pew Research Center noted that “from February 2020 to February 2021, a net 2.4 million women and 1.8 million men left the labor force.” Men have returned to work at a higher rate than women, said Ellen McRaith, vice president of talent acquisition at CDW.

Women also still face an uphill climb in the IT industry. According to Yule, a smaller percentage of women in IT fields apply for promotions, and a higher percentage of men receive the promotions they apply for. Women overall are also far more likely to step away from their careers, especially to take care of families.

Recognizing the Value of Diversity

While women face clear challenges as they build their careers in technology, speakers at the Women in Tech event agreed that many organizations are learning the powerful benefits of a diverse workforce. “It provides more diversity of thought, more experience,” Yule said. “And women will come forward and represent what our customer base looks like.”

Speakers at the forum touted the value of hybrid work in attracting a more diverse workforce. Supporting workers in both remote locations and in office settings can be challenging, but many organizations won’t have a choice, said Kojo Mensah-Bonsu, CDW’s director of diversity and inclusion, who moderated the forum. Employers that want to attract and retain top talent must find innovative ways to provide the flexible environment that the modern workforce demands.

“Innovations in hybrid work are bringing opportunities not only to the workforce at large but especially to women and underrepresented communities. Through technology, we are redefining what an inclusive culture looks like," said Rachel Barger, senior vice president for Americas sales at Cisco and global executive sponsor for the employee affinity group Women of Cisco. “It’s through the power of technology, our people and our culture that we will continue to make great strides in ensuring that everyone’s views are represented and have a voice.”

DISCOVER: Find out how a diverse workforce can make your organization more competitive.

The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

Multiple speakers, including Lisa Lee, vice president of global culture and belonging for DoorDash, and Theresa Vu, CTO of Praxis Labs, discussed the importance of employee mental health and the value of workplace efforts to provide support. “Burnout happens as a result of a lot of different things,” said Lee. “As much as awareness has risen, it’s still not enough.”

They said organizations can take the following steps to provide support:

  • Hold regular check-ins for work and mental health: Vu suggested turning one-on-one meetings into open discussions where coworkers can share their experiences.
  • Eliminate unnecessary demands on workers: Managers should be mindful of meeting fatigue and avoid adding unnecessary meetings to employees’ schedules.
  • Support families: Organization leaders should understand the demands on their workers outside of work and offer flexible schedules to accommodate families.

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McRaith said that 82 percent of new candidates going into the workforce want their organizations to see them as human beings as well as employees. “We saw some fundamental truths change in the past two years,” she said.

Vu echoed this sentiment and encouraged organizations to “bring some humanity into the workspace versus forcing people to compartmentalize all the time, which can be a slippery slope to adverse mental health.”

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