Gender diversity topics present us with an ideal opportunity to reflect on what’s happening on the ground in our companies today, the strides women have made toward achieving gender diversity, and how much more we still need to do.
Having worked in the tech industry for over 30 years, I have experienced first-hand the evolution of diversity at a corporate level – especially when it comes to investments in diversity programs and the overall push to make diversity part of an organization’s guiding values and beliefs.
Although the work is far from finished, the good news is that most companies now recognize that the benefits of diversity go far beyond “it’s the right thing to do.” They now accept that diverse companies perform better and innovate faster, which is why diversity is so important in the tech industry.
I’ve seen the change coming
When I was first hired as a Big Data Solutions Architect at Hortonworks (which eventually merged with my current company, Cloudera), several women and I formed a group focused on improving diversity at the company. We held meetups in our spare time, shared our big visions, and dreamed about what we would accomplish. It was inspiring, and it was important groundwork – which was taking place in thousands of companies across the U.S. – but it wasn’t yet real change.
Over the last few years, the confluence of a number of movements like Me Too, along with compelling research on the benefits of diversity, finally lit a fire that has led to top-down initiatives driving significant changes in attitude, leadership, and corporate values and beliefs. Suddenly, the vision we could only dream about just a few years earlier was coming to life before us.
Yet the job is far from finished. Most companies are not yet truly diverse, and many barriers remain. A key barrier, for example, is unconscious bias that prevents people from ever recognizing that a problem exists, which in turn continues to lead to skewed hiring on the basis of sex or race instead of talent and promise.
Still, if tech leaders continue advocating for diversity and the empowerment of people of different backgrounds, the investment in the push for diversity will pay off in the form of increased revenue – and a more agile and innovative culture. This is something I’ve witnessed here at Cloudera. Yes, we have a lot more work to do, but we are committed to, and invested in, diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and are beginning to see the results.
We still need trailblazers
Rising to the top is something every little girl should have the opportunity to accomplish. To get there, however, women today still need to overcome barriers, excel in a male-dominated environment, and share their success with other women. Early on, I was determined to be part of Cloudera’s executive leadership, and I credit much of my growth and the success of my journey to embracing my role as a woman.
As an engineer in sales and then as a manager, I was able to leverage my own experiences as a woman. For example, as a female engineer, I had a better understanding of the user experience of women, especially when it came to technology specific to women, such as a pap smear solution, something I worked on earlier in my career.
And now that I have reached the executive level, it’s essential that I share my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned with those wanting to break through the glass ceiling above them. I know that many Gen Z workers just starting on their career paths want to talk to people “like them” who have reached leadership positions.
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The future of women in tech
The most exciting thing about today’s opportunities for women is that there are so many avenues one can take to build a career in tech. The tech industry is constantly evolving, and currently, there are many career opportunities available for people with diverse backgrounds – from engineering and support to sales, marketing and finance. And a common element to all these opportunities at many tech firms is the embrace of flexibility and openness.
For example, at most companies in our industry, women no longer have to fear asking for or taking maternity leave (I hope this is true in every industry) – and the process should be smooth for those who take maternity leave and then return. In fact, many tech companies have enhanced their tools and resources to make it easier for women to enjoy new motherhood and then return to work.
Companies have done this because they recognize that these benefits aren’t just good for women – they improve the entire workforce. Supporting parental leave programs means that men can have more family time as well, resulting in a better work/life experience and vastly increased job satisfaction.
This is the type of evolution that must continue in every corner of the organization.
Take recruitment, for example.
Prospects and employees are looking to join organizations that not only promote but operate as an inclusive workplace. To achieve this, an organization must ensure diversity across every level, beyond women and minorities. And we must go beyond making diversity in recruitment a simple numbers game. Those joining organizations need tools, resources, and support to make career growth possible.
There is no secret sauce, no simple formula for making diversity real at every company. It takes hard work, bravery, persistence and imagination. But the benefits of an inclusive culture are undeniable, and in 2022, the momentum we have built now feels unstoppable.
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