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5 ways to attract and retain female technologists

Beth Stackpole | March 8, 2016
Companies are stepping up to increase gender diversity in their tech workforce because it’s smart business. Top firms share advice on how they’re making headway.

"To be the best out there, you need to provide products that are good for diverse people. If only one type of person is coming up with those product designs and technology, then you are not presenting the best options to your customers," says Caroline Sieber, vice president and HR business partner for technology at American Express. "You need a diverse set of skills."

As part of a far-reaching diversity initiative, AmEx has multiple efforts in play to promote gender diversity, including recruitment, training, community building and mentoring programs. The goal is to mitigate the challenges for female tech employees by fostering peer support, providing networking forums and teaching women how to find and align with champions who can open doors to new opportunities.

Similarly, at LinkedIn, Lockheimer reports that the WIT exec team now has close to 50 participants who spend about 5% of their time promoting gender diversity by chairing committees, hosting meetups, sponsoring STEM programs, and coaching, among other initiatives.

Thanks to WIT and other efforts, within a 12-month period, LinkedIn managed to inch the number of females in technical roles up by 1% and the overall number of women employees up by 3%, representing 19% of the total workforce of 9,200 employees. The gains prove the company is on the right track, Lockheimer says, though she admits that there's more hard work to be done.

If your organization has work to do in reaching gender parity, consider following these five tips as recommended by diversity champions like Cisco, GoDaddy, Salesforce and AmEx.

Be transparent about your progress

Since it's no secret that gender diversity and pay parity are ongoing problems nearly everywhere in the industry, some companies are taking the tack of publicly disclosing their hiring numbers and salary data -- as well as their goals for improvement.

Last summer, Twitter joined the ranks of companies like Google and Pinterest in releasing its gender diversity targets. By late 2016, Twitter hopes to have 35% female workers in its ranks globally, up from 34% currently; 16% women in tech positions, up from 13% now; and 25% for leadership roles, up from 22% today.

Other tech companies, including Salesforce and GoDaddy, are taking the transparency mandate one step further, releasing not only gender diversity targets, but also salary data to round out the picture. Salesforce doled out $3 million last year to bring female salaries on par with their male counterparts, after initiating a study that uncovered the disparity.

GoDaddy released its pay-parity numbers last year, as part of a multi-pronged strategy to rehabilitate a corporate image that was negatively associated with the scantily clad women it used in earlier advertising campaigns.


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