Commentary & Perspective

Recognizing Companies Making Progress

Last week the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) announced BNY Mellon as the winner of ABI’s 2015 Top Companies for Women Technologist Initiative.  For the first time we also announced a leadership index of twelve additional companies that performed above the mean of participating companies.

History And Purpose

The Top Companies Initiative was first developed by ABI in 2010 to quantitatively measure the progress that companies were making to increase the percentage of women in their technical workforce. ABI believed that measurement and accountability were essential elements to increasing the inclusion of women in technical roles.  Top Companies was therefore based on the analysis of data submitted by participating companies on the make-up of their technical workforce.

Over time the purpose of the initiative has evolved to include providing companies with information on their progress and how it compares with other companies in the industry, and to helping women who are pursuing careers in technology identify companies that are making significant progress in this area.  With the increase in the numbers of companies participating (24 in 2014 and 35 in 2015) and the overall size of the technical workforce analyzed (over 435,000 technical employees in 2015) we are also able to gain insight on if and where the industry as a whole is making gains on the inclusion of women.

How It Works

The information that is submitted and scored includes the representation of women in the technical workforce at the entry, mid, senior and executive level plus the recruitment and promotion of women for two years.  ABI then scores the representation levels and the year over year changes (trends) using a Z-score methodology.  The z-score for each metric is summed to give a company’s total score.  The company with the highest total z-score is the winner. Those companies with a total z score above the mean of the participating companies are recognized on the Leadership Index.

The metrics assessed by Top Companies were originally defined based on ABI’s seminal research, “Climbing the Technical Ladder.”  The definition of these metrics and the underlying definitions of the technical workforce are documented in the application instructions from the 2014/2015 initiative. Information on the scoring method is also available.

What It Means

The Top Companies approach provides a more complete and nuanced perspective than just looking at the total percentage of women in the technical workforce.  It accounts for the distribution of women across the four levels, entry to executive, so provides insight into whether women are stuck at entry and mid level, or whether they are moving up within the ranks.  We know that lack of promotion is a primary reason for women leaving the field.  It also provides insight into whether companies are improving their recruitment and promotion rates year over year which are the keys to increasing the overall percentage of women in technical roles.

The 2015 Top Companies winner and Leadership Index represent the participating companies that scored above the mean.  We know that no company is perfect today, no one has 50/50 representation.  Nor should that be our standard.  Recognizing companies that are making progress and achieving gains beyond the industry mean is essential to increasing the overall rate of industry participation.

Many companies have made poor decisions in the past on their advertising strategies and their promotion or recruitment practices.  Past mistakes should not take precedence over current efforts to include more women in technical roles.  We should welcome companies making progress and any sincere effort to change the ratio.  We should also recognize that making the changes necessary to create more inclusive organizations will not happen overnight.  Companies will make mistakes and will have times when they lose ground.  No company is perfect.  And no single measure is perfect.  It is still important to celebrate progress and the efforts of those who are committed to advancing the cause of women technologists.