Women like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, have snared some top jobs in the tech industry's executive suite, but a lot more needs to be done to promote women in the industry.
The 2016 Top Companies for Women Technologists Findings & Insights report released today by the Anita Borg Institute revealed that women held just 21.7 percent of technical roles among the 60 companies evaluated. These companies had a total of 1.4 million U.S. employees, including 552,000 technologists, across a range of 10 industries, from financial services, media and research to retail and information services.
While that was a 0.9 percent increase from 2015 at all levels — entry, mid, senior and executive — the study revealed that jobs for women at the senior and executive levels continue to lag entry-level jobs, due to a promotion gap.
The trend has had unintended consequences: It has fueled turnover rates among women in the tech industry. "Women love their work, but if they don't see career advancement, it is a reason for them to leave," said Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the ABI. "It's time to move beyond just talking about the problem of gender diversity in tech and change the focus to what companies can do to increase the representation of women technologists."
As she explained, the first steps are for companies to set rigorous goals and implement diversity and leadership training programs.
Whitney should know. The ABI has focused on the advancement of women in computing since its founding in 1997. Today it has a social community of some 100,000 technologists looking to be change agents.
2016 Leadership Index
The 2016 Top Companies for Women Technologists Leadership Index named 25 organizations as leaders in recruiting, retaining and advancing more women in technical roles. Out of 60 companies, ThoughtWorks scored highest in all the key metrics. Here is the entire list, in alphabetical order, of the companies that scored above the industry mean.
So what companies are doing the best job? According to ABI's report, the industry's 25 top performers are on its Top Companies for Women Technologists Leadership Index, a national benchmark that names organizations that are leaders in recruiting, retaining and advancing more women in technical roles.
It is a quantitative assessment that uses data supplied by participating companies and a statistical methodology to score participants.
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High-performing companies that make the index all have policies and programs that support women in the workplace, including flex time; maternity and paternity leave; leadership development for mid-career and executive-level employees and gender diversity training. While companies on the Leadership Index have an average of 27,000 employees, the companies range in size from 700 employees to 180,000.
This year ThoughtWorks, a custom software-development company, tops the list with the highest overall score. Some 40.5 percent of ThoughtWorks' new recruits are women across all career levels, compared to an average of 23 percent at all participating companies in the study. At the entry level, women hold 59.6 percent of the positions compared to an average 26.8 percent; at mid-level women hold 46.2 percent, compared to 22.6 percent; and at the executive level women hold 23.8 percent of all positions, compared to an average of 14.1 percent.
According to Rebecca Parsons, PhD., chief technology officer at ThoughtWorks, the company has a number of initiatives to foster women technologists in the workplace. "We don't just look to hire graduates with computer science degrees. We expand our pool to include those with degrees in other sciences, including anthropology, math and mechanical engineering." In addition, she notes that training is key. "All graduate hires with less than three years of experience attend a five-week program at ThoughtWorks University in India to learn more about coding and problem-solving abilities."
To make sure women move up the career ladder, ThoughtWorks provides leadership training and monitors the workplace environment to make sure it is inclusive for women. Just as important, it tracks the rate of promotions for women in technical positions and pay equality.
As ABI's Whitney notes, companies like ThoughtWorks are trying to create cultural change, and these types of initiatives help them retain talent. "The executive team has always made diversity a priority and part of the company's DNA. It's a fairly different model others can emulate."