There is a road to parity for women in tech

In today's workforce, women in tech still face many challenges in achieving parity with their male counterparts. However, there is hope for the future as companies like TEKsystems are working to create opportunities for women in tech.

My daughter has just started her first year at college. In just a few years, she'll be deciding her career in the modern workplace. It's a great feeling to finally be able to share my advice, as I have spent the majority of my career creating opportunities for others through career success. I am the head of our corporate social responsibility and human resources strategy at TEKsystems. We are a global business solutions provider that specializes in technology, talent and business.

We have prioritized diversity equity and inclusion initiatives (DEI) because we think they will continue to positively impact the workplace experience. Our recent study revealed that 96% IT workers believe their leaders make it clear that DEI is a key part of the company's strategy.

It is important to evaluate the impact and difference these initiatives have made for women in the workplace. I've seen what organizations can do when they create pathways for opportunities, foster a sense belonging and advocate for women at work. It's something I want my daughter to experience, no matter what her career path is. Women currently make up only 25% of the IT workforce. It is not time to stop.

The job market continues to be volatile: From a shortage of IT-skilled workers to layoffs by the largest names in the field to the impact of pandemics, it's hard to predict where the market will go and what this means for IT employees. While our study revealed that more than half the women working in IT believe they have opportunities for growth at their current job, this pales in comparison with the 89% men who think they can grow in their careers. The high demand and low supply for IT talent will make it difficult to see drastic changes in IT hiring.

In an industry that is facing a talent shortage, IT teams must foster a diverse environment where people can feel like they belong. This is especially important for those who are new in the workforce, such as my daughter, or come from backgrounds less traditional. Companies must create cultures which help women overcome barriers. Employee networks create systems that allow workers to feel heard, seen and supported. They do this by creating conversation forums where they can share their experiences with others who can relate. Nothing is better than connecting with someone who knows what you are going through.

DEI programs are expected to continue to create new paths and spur progress, thereby expanding the pool to hire IT professionals. Per Scholas, a program which is helping women and minorities to succeed in IT, is an excellent example. It helps to connect talented individuals to businesses that are in high demand by providing free, rigorous training to those who are often excluded from careers in technology.

Few years ago, a mother of four with no IT experience and a long absence from education graduated from the Per Scholas customized training partnership. She was afraid that she wouldn't succeed when she started the full-time, 15-week training. She is battling these competing forces. She overcame these obstacles, worked hard with her family and her instructors and is now a certified IT professional working at TEKsystems.

It is crucial to open doors for women in IT like this mother of four. Creating alternative pathways for women to get the training and coaching they need is critical. Traditional education programs such as master's degrees and bachelor's degrees do not produce enough IT workers to fill the market demand. These programs are also not accessible to all. It is important that women have more opportunities in IT.

A woman's IT career can be accelerated and enhanced by the sponsorship component. Find a sponsor to speak for you when you are not present. If this is the case, embrace the fact that you may be the only woman in the meeting. Look for ways to help women who are more advanced in their careers.

Sponsorship is important because you cannot put yourself in front every executive you wish to meet or everyone who might impact your career. It's important to have sponsors who will talk about you even when you are not present.

I remember the impact the mom of four had on us when we met her. From the moment people started interacting with her they began talking positively about her. They encouraged others to meet her, and bring her into their company without being her mentor. No matter what role you play, having sponsors or being a mentor is a real benefit for women who want to make it in IT.

DEI is also a good investment. DEI initiatives are credited with a diverse workforce (63%), better company performance (58%), and improved employee retention (55%). To encourage retention, it is important to create a sense belonging for employees. This can be measured through their sense of security. While the majority of women (58%) who responded to a survey in IT said they felt they had a feeling of belonging at their workplace, 85% men also expressed a similar sentiment. These figures will rise for women if we increase our focus on mentoring and sponsorship.

DEI programs can help organizations get on the right track to attract and retain women with essential skills in IT roles. IT organizations can better nurture, retain, and promote diverse talent by committing to DEI and encouraging sponsorship. They can also work with programs such as Per Scholas, which recruits diverse talent with the correct skills. Organisations can shape and influence the experience of women working in IT. From creating access and opportunities from the very beginning to encouraging sponsorship and instilling a sense of belonging, they are able to do so. There's no reason to stop making progress towards parity, for my daughter and all talented young women.

Faith Rottmann Johnson is a firm believer in the power and potential of people to make a positive impact in their workplaces and communities. She oversees global strategic human resource and corporate social programs at TEKsystems. She has more than 26 years experience as a professional in human resources.