How corporations and communities can support women in tech
By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs. According to Girls Who Code, 74% of girls express interest in STEM fields when they are in high school. But only 24% of computer science jobs are held by women. So how can we make sure that teenage girls who are passionate about STEM now, get their fair share of these jobs after graduation? Non-profit organizations like Girls Who Code are leading the charge in ensuring that girls who grow up interested in STEM stay interested as adults. But I’ve also seen how corporations and communities are responsible for developing a workplace culture that inspires adult women to accelerate their tech careers.
I work at Citrix, a company that has several affinity groups designed to encourage all employees to advance their personal and career development. One of these groups is called the Women’s Inspirational Network (WIN). With chapters at several different office locations, WIN provides opportunities for women at Citrix to connect, educate, inspire and empower one another to enhance business and personal success. We organize events that deal with all facets of life from self-defense to finances. It is so important for a woman in any career stage to have the ability to turn to other women in their industry for mentorship and guidance.
Internal Startup Accelerators
Earlier this year, I participated in an internal startup competition called the Lean Innovation Challenge. I was on a team with two other employees and we were tasked with validating a product or feature idea that would fit the Citrix portfolio. We spent 10% of our typical work week performing dozens of customer interviews and developing our pitch, which we executed in front of our colleagues and executives. My team was subsequently accepted into the Innovators Program so that we could be full-time “intrepreneurs” while still getting our regular paycheck from Citrix. We worked alongside other Citrix teams as well as external startups. This was an incredible opportunity to find out what it would be like to be a female entrepreneur. I’m now back at the day job that I love, but continue to apply Lean Startup principles to my marketing campaigns and other customer-driven innovation projects. If and when I decide to depart the corporate world and enter the realm of entrepreneurship, I know the first steps to take in getting my idea out of my head and into the hands of real customers.
Networking might sound like a tired way to inspire, but it is in fact a critical component to attracting more women to tech jobs. And it can be fun! I live in Raleigh, NC, where the startup community is like one huge rapidly growing tightknit family. I recently celebrated Women’s Entrepreneurship Day with about 125 other Raleigh women at a free networking event (and yes it included wine and poke bowls!). We were clustered into small groups to share ideas and discuss ways to improve our female entrepreneurial community. This is just one example of the many interactive networking opportunities required to drive innovation lead by women in tech.
It’s also a reason why Raleigh made Citrix ShareFile’s list of best cities for women to start their own business. Our study looked at each city’s percentage of women-owned businesses and percentage of executive roles held by women. In order to attract more women to the tech industry, women need the ability to connect with other women. The more female founders and CTOs there are in a given city, the more likely that other local ladies will follow in their footsteps and lead the next generation. We also evaluated each city’s gender wage gap and female buying power to measure a woman-owned business’ potential to thrive and grow beyond the startup years.
The Future is Female
So how do we recruit the next generation of women in tech? With more women in tech! Companies and cities need to offer women easy access to resources - and each other. Without this support, adolescent girls will continue to feel discouraged to develop careers in STEM. My advice for those girls? Remember that your future is not yet defined. The job title you have when you enter the workforce might not even exist right now and that’s exciting. Be proud of your unique strengths because they are needed for a brighter future.
In our study, Buffalo, NY ranked number one for percentage of executive jobs held by women with only a little more than 35%. My hope is that by the time my two-year-old daughter enters the workforce, women will hold the majority of executive jobs in Buffalo, and the phrase “women in tech” will be so normal that it will no longer need to be labeled as such.