The tech industry—long a male-dominated field—continues to underrepresent women in its workforce. We've made progress, but even with more and more women joining the field in both traditional and non-traditional roles, many barriers remain. In my last post, I wrote about the nature of some of these barriers and trends in the industry. For this post, I spoke with female leaders at IBM Consulting, TD Bank Group and Morgan Stanley about their career paths and how these organizations are making a difference for women in tech.
IBM, for example, has established dedicated programs and support groups focused on fostering pathways and advancing women into technical leadership roles. Today the company is home to several “business resource groups” that help women expand their personal and professional networks, develop new skills and access mentors and sponsors.
“I’ve been participating in a business resource group for the past six months,” says Shelly Bardai, Associate Partner with IBM Consulting and a KPMG in Canada alumna, “and have seen the impact it has on the women I mentor. The program creates an environment for women to share their stories and open discussions and dialogue about challenges they’re facing in their professional careers. At their core, these groups exist to ensure that all employees feel a sense of belonging while creating greater visibility for employees.”
Morgan Klein-MacNeil, Vice President of Finance Technology with TD Bank Group, also credits internal mentorship and career support programs for her success at TD. Since joining the bank after university, she has drawn mentorship and support through programs like TD’s Women in Technology Network. To support others as she had been supported in her career, Klein-MacNeil helped to launch TD Circles, a peer-to-peer group-mentoring initiative for women within the bank’s Platforms & Technology organization.
“I’ve benefitted from that culture of inclusion at TD tremendously throughout my career,” Klein-MacNeil says, “and I've also had the opportunity to work for strong female leaders in senior executive positions since my most junior roles at TD, going back 11 years. We know it makes a difference when you have role models that you can see yourself reflected in and be able to see their success in the organization.”
Because of these initiatives, she adds, “It never occurred to me not to continue with a career in technology. As soon as I got to TD, I saw the opportunities that lay ahead of me.”
Overcoming the barriers to entry
Beyond creating more open workforces is the demand for bringing women into the fold. Here again, organizations have a role to play in both creating and nurturing career pathways, whether for women coming out of tech-related schools, those changing their careers, or those who would like to pursue a role in tech but have not had the time or resources to pursue formal education.
Certainly, says Bardai, "Anything a company can do to create accessible and supportive pathways for women in technology is a step in the right direction.”
IBM Consulting’s Tech Re-Entry program—a full-time, paid ‘returnship’ program—welcomes women back to work by providing them with skills training and mentoring while being paid. Bardai adds, “We have the opportunity to retain all of the talented women who graduate from the program.”
In addition to Tech Re-Entry, IBM Consulting also offers SkillsBuild, a skills-based learning program that offers access to free digital learning, resources and support focused on the core technology and workplace skills needed to help people succeed in ‘new collar’ jobs. TD has launched a similar "Returners" program that focuses on growing the representation of women in TD's technology workforce by creating a pathway for those currently outside of the technology industry.
If there’s a common thread between these initiatives, it's the effort to address and dismantle the internal barriers that have made it more difficult for women to receive their due recognition in the field. Here again, says Klein-MacNeil, “We need to engage people of all different backgrounds, skill sets and mindsets because that’s what builds our capacity for innovation. And it's that innovation that ultimately drives our results.”
Sending out the call
Part of forging stronger and more supportive pathways in tech is giving women a reason to take the journey. To that end, Sophia Bennaceur, Regional Head of Morgan Stanley’s Montreal office, says there is an element of branding at play.
“It's very challenging to recruit in this environment,” she says, “especially given the percentage of women in technology. That’s why it’s important for businesses not only to conduct those campus recruiting events and talent attraction programs but to develop branding around women in technology to attract more of them. You need to be able to show that those values of inclusion, diversity and belonging are at the core of what you do as a company, and that you truly believe doing so creates a more innovative and successful company.”
Part of that branding includes creating local programs and initiatives that embrace these same messages. Morgan Stanley’s “Grow” career development workshops are one example. As is Amplify Women, a Montreal-based networking program created by the firm and its local partners to develop a link between tech-related employers and to provide talent development programs.
“The idea behind Amplify Women was really to start creating a community of women in technology in Montreal, because we don't have many of them,” Bennaceur explains. “It’s also to help our women professionals connect externally with other people and really to develop their careers.”
Setting the pace
KPMG, too, recognizes the value of making careers in tech more welcoming, accessible and enriching to women through our own formal networks, programs and career-support initiatives. For example, KPMG’s Women in Technology Community has been a labour of love for the past three years and aims to build an inclusive space for all to continually learn and grow. Now home to over 500 members from across the firm in Canada, KPMG’s Women in Technology Community has developed a number of flagship initiatives, including the Women Talk Tech podcast, a Mentorship Program, Coffee & Learn sessions, and panel events featuring inspiring speakers in tech. There are also opportunities for community members to learn about hot topics in tech and KPMG’s technology-related services and solutions through “Tech Talk” sessions.
Our goal is to continue providing experiences, guidance and support to our women in tech however and wherever we can. I’ll keep writing about these initiatives here on our blog, and I hope you keep reading. We also understand that bridging the gaps for women in technology is not a static objective; it requires a long-term vision, frameworks and roadmaps to see it through.
As Klein-MacNeil says, "It's a proven fact that diversity drives innovation. So, if you want to have that pace of change, and if you want to be successful as an organization, you need a talent pool to support that. That's where women—and all diverse talent—have a huge role to play."
“This isn’t something that has a definitive end, either,” adds Bennaceur. “Yes, we do have more and more women coming into tech and taking significant roles, but the work isn’t over. We cannot say it’s okay to stop because a few women are at the top; we need to keep going and bring more through the door.”
Taking it to the next level
The possibilities for women in tech could be limitless if organizations continue to take the reins and guide the next generation of leaders to keep building on their foundations. We began by recognizing that there is a discrepancy in the technology industry, then we dug deeper to uncover the barriers, and finally we set about to do better. Now, it’s up to all of us to stay the course. If we act together, I’m confident we will get there.
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