Gender Bias: Is Your IT Group Guilty? - InformationWeek

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Gender Bias: Is Your IT Group Guilty?
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Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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8/11/2014 | 11:55:27 AM
Tech Co vs. Tech Department
I wonder if there are discernable differences if you work at a technology company (which focuses exclusively on tech -- such as a developer or integrator) vs. working in the tech department of a different type of business (such as healthcare, retail, or education)?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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8/13/2014 | 9:52:16 AM
Re: Gender Bias
Apple announced its employee mix today (or yesterday) and it's more of the same, unfortunately. On the plus side, Tim Cook stated it's a priority for him to improve the diversity mix at Apple. In reporting on this issue for years, I've discovered that companies which really emphasize and support diversity do a good job of meeting that goal. IBM, for example, has a rich heritage in supporting women across technology and business roles, and has a much higher mix of women and non-white males in its staff and management. EMC also has a big, ongoing diversity initiative. 

In both these companies' cases, they have a high-level exec whose sole responsibility is to improve hiring and retention of a diverse workforce, and that includes making sure diverse employees have the resources and support they need once they enter the workforce at this business. IBM, for example, has many groups for women, women of color, Hispanics, etc., leveraging perhaps its global presence. The company supports women in tech organizations, such as Anita Borg, financially and through participation in events.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 9:55:34 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
In covering this topic for years across multiple publications, I'd say there's a lot of truth to the idea more white men apply for technology jobs than other people. It's one reason so many tech and non-tech businesses are getting involved with improving STEM's image for young girls, teens, and college students. It's a reason i believe it's so important to encourage more women engineering teachers, female or diverse physics professors, etc. I just read a USA Today article on Girls Who Code; it included a young Hispanic girl's quote, where she said she could never have envisioned herself working at a Facebook or Google until she met a Hispanic woman who is a tech professional at a startup. Girls need role models in this field; thankfully, lots of men and women across all backgrounds and ethnicities are realizing this and investing money and time to make this less rare.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 9:59:28 AM
Re: Gender Bias
Some businesses have found the best way to increase the diversity of applicants is to broaden the way in which they reach out to prospective employees, working with groups that support women in tech, minorities in tech, etc., to get their openings out to a much wider base. That doesn't always work, of course, and time sometimes is of the essence. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 10:01:41 AM
Take the Diversity Test
You can examine your own diversity awareness and any bias, courtesy of a free series of online tests developed by Project Implicit, a non-profit developed by three university scientists to "foster dissemination and application of implicit social cognition." The president of the Society for Women Engineers passed along this test to me in 2013, and many find it very eye-opening.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 1:57:17 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Isn't that the truth, @Jeff! In my area - Central Florida - there's a very active, thriving technology integrator, Craig Technologies, that is woman-owned and headed; she is definitely and obviously the driving force behind the company she founded after years at NASA (I believe; definitely in engineering). Yet sometimes companies pay lip service to the diversity concept, naming a figurehead to get the diversity classification (be it woman, veteran, or another capacity). I respect what government and other groups are trying to do here and think it's necessary, unfortunately, but you'd think there was a better way to measure compliance than against an org chart... 

I am glad to see Facebook, Google, et al, break down their diversity numbers both as overall employees and within their technology groups (where employees make more money and have more opportunity). To me, that shows they are at least seriously considering the implications -- less competitive products, less access to the best and brightest employees, etc. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 3:11:16 PM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Yes, Apple did -- and it had pretty much the same breakdown as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc. However, Tim Cook did say improving Apple's diversity is a priority for him.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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8/13/2014 | 4:44:29 PM
Re: Few female tech grads
I volunteer with a group of young women at an engineering-focused college here in MA and let me assure you they are not only real but also incredibly smart.

 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 9:19:53 AM
Re: Few female tech grads
It's a shame there were no women in your class, but that is (thankfully) not always the case, as Laurie said. Thanks to the efforts of K-12 and higher-ed schools, IT professionals, organizations, and volunteers, more women (younger and older) see technology as a viable, fulfilling, and attractive career path. Granted, it's nowhere near a 50/50 split (or close), but it's tough to turn a ship around overnight. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2014 | 9:21:50 AM
Re: Tech Co vs. Tech Department
Here is the USA Today story where Cook discussed Apple's (lack of) diversity and his disappointment/plans to improve. Good luck!
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