By Susan Davis-Ali, Ph.D.
Senior Director, Organizational Transformation
At the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), our mission is based on our founder Anita’s vision to see equal representation of women in technology by 2020. It’s a lofty ambition, especially considering that the proportion of women in tech has stubbornly remained at 21 percent for five years running.
Despite these odds, we’re committed to the mission because research shows that diversity drives innovation, and innovation is the lynchpin to greater economic growth and progress. That notion is at the heart of ABI’s Top Companies for Women Technologists program, which recognizes companies that create workplaces where women technologists can thrive.
In a nutshell, Top Companies recognizes companies at three levels: a winner, an annual Leadership Index which includes all companies that score above the mean, and our Change Alliance, which recognizes all participating companies.
Participating in Top Companies shows women technologists that your company cares about everybody’s experience, and is committed to creating a workplace where everyone can contribute and thrive. You can quite literally wear a badge of honor (winner, Leadership Index or Change Alliance) that demonstrates your commitment.
Top Companies is, at its core, a data-driven program
We’re all familiar with the frequently released surveys that report on the “best places to work.” Top Companies is not one of those surveys, and the distinction is critical to understanding what makes an organization truly inclusive and diverse.
Usually, “best places to work” reports are based on surveys administered by the companies included in the report. These rarely include rigorous statistical models, and don’t account for who is actually answering the surveys. So if the survey asks about workplace happiness or satisfaction, there’s no control over who participates — it could be the happiest folks or the unhappiest employees who are represented disproportionately.
Top Companies works differently. We take a statistically rigorous approach to the data we collect, and we take our time analyzing it. Why? Because we aren’t taking the easy path to create yet another survey that crowns a winner based on arbitrary data.
Our process is 100 percent transparent — there’s no magic box into which your company data goes in to produce results. You can read all about our statistical methodology here.
What we do provide is a benchmark for participating companies to see how their diversity and inclusion efforts stack up compared to other participants.
This comparison is crucial to providing valuable guidance to technology companies in the industry as well as women technologists looking for the right fit for their careers and needs.
As an individual company, it’s nearly impossible to know where you stand without comparing yourself to the industry standards. And when every company only tracks their own metrics for diversity and inclusion, the results are not very valuable.
Think back to high school — when you got an 85 percent on an exam, the first question you’d ask would be what the average was. If the average was 65 percent, you did quite well, but if the average was 95 percent, you had some catching up to do.
This context is what sets Top Companies apart — it’s the first and only program of its kind that benchmarks workplace experience (employee sentiment) across companies. A key aspect of this is ABI’s partnership with Kanjoya, a leader in workplace experience surveys, which allows us to dig deeper into the metrics behind diversity and inclusion efforts at participating companies.
The beauty of the Top Companies program is that it not only gives companies a benchmark to which they can compare their own diversity and inclusion efforts, but also provides much-needed insight to women technologists looking for the right cultural fit as they progress through their careers.
Our guidance is only as valuable as the data we get
The quality of the data we collect is arguably the most important aspect of the Top Companies program. After all, we can only provide guidance based on the numbers provided to us, and this depends on companies’ efforts to collect the right data.
For instance, we’re frequently asked why we don’t analyze companies based on race or ethnicity data. The simple answer is that we don’t have the data. Unless companies collect and share these numbers with us, we cannot report on them. The fact is, this is voluntary information that is not readily available to ABI.
This is a problem, and we encourage companies to begin collecting and reporting data on race and ethnicity as part of their diversity and inclusion efforts. After all, the numbers speak for themselves — according to a recent McKinsey & Company study, gender-diverse and ethnically diverse companies are 15 percent and 35 percent (respectively) more likely to financially outperform the national industry median.
There’s little doubt left that diversity — in all its forms — drives innovation, a key ingredient in the recipe for business success. By ignoring this fact, and refusing to collect and share the relevant data, companies are stifling progress and only hurt themselves.
Empower your company and promote women in technology with data-driven guidance
The 2016 round of Top Companies for Women Technologists opens on March 9, and we encourage every eligible company to participate. It’s a crucial step in the right direction toward balancing the ratio in technology, and sends a crystal clear message to women technologists and the industry at large that your company is eager to build a diverse, welcoming and inclusive work culture for everyone.