October 9, 2015

Why to Hire Women for STEM Roles

Sheila Talton

Why to Hire Women for STEM Roles

The tech industry is continuously criticized for the lack of women in leadership roles. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women hold 47 percent of all jobs, but just 25.6 percent of computer and mathematical occupations. There is a vast shortage of women in big data analytics, but a surfeit of qualified women who are up for the job.

Diversity is a crucial component within any business, as company leaders tend to get more out of their employees when all ages, genders, and nationalities work together. In a tech company or startup, diversity is required for maximizing innovation. For example, when it comes to gender, men and women often bring different viewpoints and ideas to the table, which results in more efficient problem solving for companies. Qualified women have the collaborative skills and presentation skills that are crucial in the tech world. Tech is an industry wherein the talented are chosen and moved ahead based on their perceived intellectual capabilities. That being the case, women have the opportunity to be selected for these leadership roles on the basis of their ability. It’s a matter of opportunity – ensuring tech leaders are aware of qualified female candidates and that these candidates are given equal consideration.

In my experience, the shortage of talent in the industry allows for exposure and the ability to contribute in a lot of different roles in a technology company. When I was coming out of college and choosing an industry to work in, I chose tech because there was a shortage of talent and I knew I would have the opportunity to work in several different roles. That has been the case in my career, but you need to position yourself and convince leadership to give you a shot.

Breaking into the Tech Industry

According to the Economics and Statistics Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce, women hold a disproportionately low share of science, technology, education, and math (STEM) undergraduate degrees, and women with STEM a degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation. The thought of jumping into a male-dominated field can be very intimidating for some women. Experience can help alleviate this. Remember: It’s not necessary to come into technology from engineering. The move into tech can be made with a business degree, for example, as technology companies have accountants, sales and marketing professionals, customer service, etc.

Today, many universities offer certificate programs in data analytics, which women can take advantage of as a way into the data analytics arena. And once women get into the industry, it is important to stay in the industry, as retention, experience, and seniority play a large role in determining which candidates are considered for leadership positions.

One way to increase the number of women in technology is to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles. Women in senior management roles attract other women to join the company at all levels. Let’s face it, when candidates interview at a company, they want to know where they can see themselves within the company. If there are no role models for them to emulate, they will gravitate to a company that does have role models.

Arguably the greatest advantage to working in the tech field is that it’s a growth industry. This allows anyone to begin at the bottom and maintain longevity in the field. I have been in this industry for 30 years and, even when there’s a downturn, people who have great skills can always reinvent themselves – the technology is always changing, so keeping current is critical. A growth industry affords you the ability to work at a mature company or a startup, and you can even float throughout your career.

The tech industry is currently male dominated, but the number of women entering the industry can grow if companies begin considering the recruitment of women as part of their overall performance evaluation. Women are equal to men in capabilities and often bring a management style that is complementary to that of their male counterparts. That diversity of management approaches can benefit any organization, tech or otherwise. Because of the shortage of technology talent and the global competitiveness in business, companies that hire women will have a decided advantage over those that fail to consider the entire universe of qualified tech candidates.