The gender gap in technology is well documented and broadly acknowledged, however most conversations focus on the problem rather than the real, impactful actions organizations are taking to build inclusive cultures. What programs and policies have forward-thinking companies implemented to yield real improvements in the numbers of women technologists they attract, retain and advance? And how do those program and policy decisions impact the number of women technologists they attract and retain?
Top Companies for Women Technologists
The Anita Borg Institute (ABI) seeks to answer these questions through its groundbreaking program, Top Companies for Women Technologists. Top Companies uses a rigorous statistical methodology to analyze data from participating organizations and produce insights across three key areas: representation, employee experience and programs and policies. It is the industry benchmark for the representation of women technologists in the workforce. Using these results, we can inform participating organizations exactly how they compare to other organizations and identify the organizations with workplace cultures where women technologists can build rewarding careers.
Top Companies participants are taking concrete steps to help empower the next generation of women technologists. Of the 60 companies participating in 2016, 25 companies scored above the mean, and we named to the Leadership Index. We recognized the remaining 35 companies as members of the Change Alliance. From the 25 companies on the Leadership Index, one company had greater representation of women technologists at every level – from entry to executive.
On Wednesday of the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration, we announced ThoughtWorks as the winner of the Top Companies for Women Technologists program. ThoughtWorks’ commitment to inclusivity advances women technologists within their company and serves to drive change across the industry.
It comes as no surprise that ThoughtWorks is ready to tackle this important issue. One of the company’s three foundational pillars is to advocate passionately for social and economic justice, which caused them to focus on increasing the diversity of their own workforce. As Dr. Rebecca Parsons, Chief Technology Officer of ThoughtWorks, describes it, “There was recognition that [diversity] required more than good intentions Regardless of what role you’re looking for, from the technology perspective, it’s almost always easier to hire a man. And so you have to be much more systematic about it if you want to actually make progress on diversity.”
This is true across all the companies named to the Leadership Index. Above average scores are the result of formal initiatives, including flextime policies, leadership development programs and gender diversity training. A casual, ad-hoc approach does not lead to progress.
Programs and Initiatives
The ThoughtWorks leadership team decided to take a holistic approach to make real progress. All levels of employees quickly got behind the efforts, with the Global Management and the North American Management leading the charge.
The company offers a range of programs including ThoughtWorks University (read ABI’s story on this from last year), local community outreach events and activities, and formal leadership training programs. Rebecca believes that the local events helped dramatically in increasing representation as they provided ThoughtWorks with a way to demonstrate who they are to individuals. These events and ThoughtWorks University have helped bring in diverse new hires.
Another program of note is Women in Leadership Development (WILD), which is designed to train women across the experience and tenure spectrum to be leaders. “What we were trying to address was the leadership pipeline, but address it in a way that demystifies this vision of what it meant to be a leader so that we can get more women looking at themselves as leaders,” says Rebecca.
These programs are clearly paying off. Take a look at some of ThoughtWorks statistics!
- ThoughtWorks consistently scored above the average across all four levels of representation.
- Entry level: Women hold 59.6 percent of all entry positions, compared to an average of 26.8 percent at all participating companies
- Mid level: Women hold 46.2 percent of all mid-level positions, compared to an average of 22.6 percent at all participating companies
- Senior level: Women hold 30 percent of all senior-level positions, compared to an average of 18.4 percent at all participating companies
- Executive level: Women hold 23.8 percent of all executive positions, compared to an average of 14.1 percent at all participating companies
- 40.5 percent of all new hires were women across all career levels (entry, mid, senior and executive), compared to an average of 23 percent.
- Representation momentum (year-over-year changes in representation) increased for entry, senior and executive career levels
Reflecting on the multi-year focus on increasing the representation of women technologists at ThoughtWorks, Rebecca concluded, “I’ve been in this business a long time, and things are much, much better than they were when I started. We’re clearly making progress as an industry, but we still have a long way to go. Without a focus, you can’t move the needle. I have to believe that there are communities that we can be tapping into or organizations that we can be working with and more that we can be doing to engage with some of the more senior women talent in our industry.”
Even though ThoughtWorks was named the winner of the 2016 Top Companies for Women Technologists program, they acknowledge that more work is necessary to increase the representation of women technologists at all levels across the broader industry. We’re excited to see the results of their future efforts!