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Tech companies can make retention of female employees a priority

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Gillmor Gang LIVE 04.29.16

The technology industry has a problem with retaining qualified female employees. According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, 56 percent of women in computing jobs will leave their positions at the “mid-level” point, right when it is most costly to the companies that employ them. This is due to a number of factors that can be alleviated by corporations adopting mindful practices that will create better and balanced work environments.

The lowdown

The tech industry is growing so quickly that it is outpacing the number of qualified technical employees available to fill open positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States will have nearly 1.4 million job openings in this industry by 2020. However, more than two-thirds of these positions could go unfilled. While efforts need to be made to encourage more women to enter tech, it is also effective to take steps to ensure that talented women remain at their positions and eventually take on leadership roles.

This is not only important for staffing, but also for the health and innovation of technology companies. According to a study by NCWIT, teams that comprise both men and women produce technology patents that are cited 26-42 percent more often. Another study of more than 100 teams at 21 companies showed that those with equal numbers of men and women were more likely to experiment, be creative and fulfill tasks. Companies will simply perform better if they are able to develop and sustain a diverse team.

The tech industry is growing, but the only way it will be able to maintain that growth is by creating an environment that is open and inviting to women.

But it’s not just about current employees, it is also vital for companies to find ways to parlay the most successful and talented women into the leadership and executive pipeline. Fortune 500 companies with at least three female directors have seen their return on invested capital increase by at least 66 percent. This is further supported by a study from Dezsö and Ross of 1,500 U.S. firms in the S&P, which showed that female representation in top management positions improved financial performance in organizations where innovation is a key piece of the business strategy.

Equalize compensation

The best way for companies to hold on to female tech talent is to create a work environment that is fair, even and open for advancement and reward. Professional women currently earn .73 cents to the dollar versus men. That adds up to a difference of $333 a week, and $17,316 a year. It’s hard for a person to remain passionate about a position when they aren’t being fairly compensated for their work.

An effective way to handle this is for companies to implement regular salary audits in order to determine if there is a discrepancy in pay between male and female employees. This will expose any unintentional gender bias that exists in compensation, allowing these organizations to take steps to resolve the issue.

Eliminate promotion bias

While salary is important, it is also necessary to eliminate any bias that may exist in the promotion process. Studies have shown that women are less likely to ask for more responsibilities at work than men are. This can lead to a situation where the majority of leadership roles are held by males. That, in turn, perpetuates the problem, making it increasingly difficult for qualified women to rise to through the ranks.

The best way to combat promotion bias is to make the process as transparent as possible. Companies should lay out the specific steps that need to be taken in order for a person to transition to a higher-level job. By making the system impartial, with easily recognizable goals, it is possible to not only remove the human error that can lead to skewed decisions, but also provide a clear path for shy and reserved employees to take on more responsibility.

Give credit where it is due

Another important step that needs to be taken if tech companies want to retain female employees is for management to recognize the accomplishments of women, even if they are not in a position where they can readily be promoted. The simple act of giving praise to those who deserve it can be a powerful tool that can help counter a culture that often feels harsh, isolating and cold to women.

The tech industry is growing, but the only way it will be able to maintain that growth is by creating an environment that is open and inviting to women. This can be done by eliminating unintentional bias in compensation and promotions, while also recognizing the contributions of women at work, and praising them for their accomplishments. This will in turn lead to companies that are more dynamic, diverse and able to take on creative challenges.

Featured Image: Vladyslav Starozhylov/Shutterstock