Gender and Generation
According to a new study profiled in Fast Company by Samantha Cole, companies experience success when they have both women and twenty-somethings in leadership roles. The Global Leadership Forecast found, “companies with a 30% proportion of young people in higher roles saw ‘aggressive growth,’” and, “those in the top 20% financially had almost twice as many women in leadership roles, as well as more high-potential women holding those roles.”
One of NCWIT’s new resources, “What is the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance,” contains a review of current research on gender-diverse teams and reviews strategies to maximize the potential benefits of gender diversity on technical teams. For example, “the most successful organizations instituted diversity-focused human relations practices. At these organizations, gender diversity was associated with more constructive group processes.”
Majoring in Video Games
An article from Think Progress by Andrew Breiner profiled the new video game design major offered by NYU, and asked if an artistic approach to training could help with the issue of diversity in the gaming industry. Breiner wrote, “Department Chair Frank Lantz said ‘it’s a challenge’ to address diversity adequately. ‘Thinking about these issues is central to thinking about what makes a healthy form of culture.’ He believes the Game Center’s film school-like approach to the study of games will better equip students to understand where their work fits into society. ‘Who makes these and who is it for?… What’s the political and economic infrastructure that’s often invisible?’”
Breiner also interviewed Katherine Isbister, an NYU Game Center professor, who explained that it is not only the student body of the program that will be diverse. She said, “We have female and non-white people teaching classes, same thing with admissions… We’re not trying to recapitulate what the industry looks like now.” This echoes a tip featured in NCWIT’s “Top 10 Ways to Engage Underrepresented Students in Computing,” which says, “Provide role models for underrepresented students. Letting students hear from a variety of role models helps to ensure they find someone to whom they can relate.”
Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu
Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), founded by Lisa Foreman-Jiggets, was profiled in a recent Fortune article by Melanie D.G. Kaplan. According to the article, Foreman-Jiggets founded the group, which is based in Washington D.C., because of a lack of resources for women interested in cyber security. She explained, “I found that women want to be technical. They want to play with these tools, but they’re not given a chance or don’t know where to start.”
WSC which started small, has experienced significant growth. Kaplan wrote, “Today, WSC has 1,500 active participants worldwide and virtual chapters in five other cities. The society holds two workshops per month — one covering a technical area and one covering soft skills such as résumé-writing — several 10-week certification-preparation classes, and a Cyberjutsu Girls Academy to teach middle school students about technical subjects.”
Hootsuite and Diversity
In a blog post from the Wall Street Journal, Hootsuite Founder and CEO Ryan Holmes continued the recent trend of tech companies releasing their diversity data. He wrote, “Among Hootsuite’s roughly 600 employees, 40% are women, and they fill 23% of tech roles and 38% of leadership positions.” Holmes acknowledged that he would like to see a better ratio and discussed some of the methods his company has taken to achieve that goal. “Although we may have a youthful spirit at my company — foosball, taps in the office, rooftop parties — we’ve tried to avoid the testosterone-drenched fratboy atmosphere that sometimes prevails at startups.”
He continued to take personal responsibility by discussing ways to nurture young women into technology. “It involves rewriting perceptions of programming as a ‘boys’ thing’ and showing that rewarding careers await women as well,” he said. Additionally, he wrote about the important role that female entrepreneurs can play. “Women founders, after all, have the opportunity to create their own workplaces, actively redefining the atmosphere and attitudes in the startup world.”
Holmes’ first-person account as a founder underscores the critical need for male advocates. For our “Male Advocates and Allies: Promoting Gender Diversity in Technology Workplaces,” NCWIT interviewed 47 men in technical companies and departments and used the information they provided to identify strategies to increase male advocacy.
Early Exposure to STEM
In a Fast Company article from earlier this month, Noha El-Ghobashy argued for early exposure to STEM for students in grades Pre-K through 12. Teaching STEM to students early, she argued, gives students, “the time and space to explore … to understand and develop the skills of collaboration and persistence.” El-Ghobashy also wrote that the benefits of this type of education could be significant. She explained, “We need to inspire them to create a world in which no one human being goes without clean water, food, electricity, or medicine. Tackling each one of these challenges requires creativity, global citizenship, and engineering and technology innovation.”
NCWIT’s “Girls in IT: The Facts” also covers the topic of early exposure and concludes that it is particularly effective when it “makes connections between computer science and the real-life problems that it can help solve,” and includes a “variety of computing activities.”
In a Slate article from July on the topic of interruption, Kieran Snyder argues, “at least in this male-heavy tech setting, men do interrupt more often than women.” Snyder conducted an interesting exercise, tracking interruptions during 15 hours of meetings. Snyder’s conclusion is that, “men are almost three times as likely to interrupt women as they are to interrupt other men.” There is more formal research on this topic, but Snyder’s informal approach is interesting food for thought.
There are many steps that companies can take to set up environments where healthy team discussions can occur and everyone can participate and be heard. Everyone needs to examine their communication patterns and managers need to set the conditions for healthy debate to occur. NCWIT’s “Supervising-in-a-Box: Team/Project Management” is a great resource on this topic, with tips and tools for creating effective relationships with a diverse range of employees.