Women only make up 25% of IT roles in the US despite the fact that STEM jobs have outpaced every other employment opportunity since 1979. Unfortunately, this number is on the decline now. The turnover rate for women sits at a concerning 41% compared to the 17% for men.
Combined with the fact that 56% of women are leaving their employers mid-career – 26% eventually take up non-tech roles – this paints a worrying picture of gender diversity in IT.
Here’s another worrying statistic: Only 12% of engineers at Silicon Valley startups are women!
From lack of career growth to poor management & salary stagnation, there are numerous reasons for this valuable talent pool leaving the tech workforce.
Enterprises are only now waking up to this fact thanks to the demand-supply gap in talent exposed by COVID-19 and the acceleration of digital transformation across industries. Consequently, they have kickstarted several initiatives to mitigate this leakage.
One often overlooked solution to mitigate this talent leakage is right in front of everyone’s eyes. There is an ocean of female talent that is struggling to re-enter the workforce post a career gap, unable to find suitable offers.
Returning to the workforce post a career break can be daunting, more so if you’re a woman. Women have been traditionally handed the short end of the stick when it comes to balancing work with family.
So, how can we address this issue at the organization-level and at the level of the female talent pool itself?
Addressing Equality Through Enterprise Initiatives
HR leaders need to actively implement programs to hire women who are returning after a work break.
A great example of this is the FLY Again initiative by Airbus in India. The objective of the program is to provide opportunities to qualified women who are on a career break and wish to resume work.
But it doesn’t just stop there. Airbus also helps with upskilling programs, mentoring, and a buddy support system, ultimately connecting them to internal communities and easing-in their transition.
IT major Accenture’s Career Reboot For Women program is also a model example to be emulated. Over a six-month period, they provide a streamlined pathway to integrate with the organization using customized learning interventions.
Reducing Bias in the Hiring Process
The onus is on HR leaders to manage talent for growth & advancement while not compromising on gender diversity.
Most recruiters might just straight away bin resumes if they realize there is a break. Hiring managers need to educate their teams about the difference between hiring an experienced person and an experienced person with a career break. When it comes to hiring a person with a career break, potential takes precedence over past performance or experience.
For example, women who are returning from an extended period of childcare may be more conversant in soft skills aspects like patience, understanding & multitasking. This makes them prime candidates to work in client-facing roles.
This potential is not just based on their proficiency to do their jobs but also on how well they will reintegrate back into the workforce.
Once returning women are onboarded, there is the question of a continued support mechanism. Working women are often discouraged from taking up senior tech roles because they might have to focus on family care & might need a break in case of pregnancies. Such unhelpful attitudes must be weeded out from the company culture through awareness programs by HR. And they should be targeted at those people who are in a position to help these women advance their careers.
Taking Care of Skills-level Challenges
IT is evolving at a breakneck speed. A person who takes a break now will be returning to an almost unrecognizable job role a year later. All this means that before you reenter the workforce, you need to take some time to read about current trends like Data Analytics, AI, ML, etc. Given the numerous online learning modules available, this is very easy to do.
However, organizations should also ensure that custom learning modules are available especially for women returning to the workforce post a 3 or even a 5-year career gap. This might be a labor-intensive task, but the dividends reaped over time will more than make up for the investment.
Job roles in disciplines like Data Science & AI have a very steep learning curve that even experienced professionals might struggle with. So, in addition to providing them learning modules, talent management teams should also strive to create an environment that is conducive to learning. This means allowing them with time in the workday to complete learning tasks and constant support & motivation from their managers. In short, empathetic management is the need of the hour.
Working towards a barrier-free future
COVID-19 has accelerated the demand for IT talent. Women returning to the workforce are able to fill-in new positions better than freshers since they have a proven work record. The supply-demand gap also means that employers cannot afford to be overtly choosy about the talent they hire.
And the success of the global WFH experiment has shown employers that flexibility in work-life is not really such a bad thing after all. This has opened doors to working women with children who cannot afford to relocate or travel for their jobs.
By employing the initiatives discussed above, workforce planners can strategically increase the number of women employed in IT roles.
Draup for Talent features proprietary tools like Diversity Navigator that can help enterprises develop learning modules to help returning women ease into their job roles. Custom built for each job role with an AI-backed framework that optimizes the learning experience, such modules help returning women employees hit the ground running.