Wishing won’t solve gender inequality in the workplace. We must act.

time to act

With Women’s History Month underway, I’ve been thinking about a report published a few months ago in Wired magazine. The article examines the progress tech companies have made in diversifying their workforces since they began reporting statistics five years ago. I can describe that progress to you in two words—not much.

From 2014 to 2019 women made incremental gains in workforce representation within large companies. At Apple, women comprised 23% of the company’s workforce in 2019, a gain of only 3%. Microsoft, Google and Facebook reported weak gains as well, at 3%, 6% and 8% respectively.

That’s progress, yes, but it’s not enough. Diversity in the workplace – on a scale that mirrors our society at large — is important for a number of reasons. From a pure numbers-driven, business perspective, developed countries face an acute shortage of talent. That’s because STEM graduation rates remain low at a time when jobs across all industries are becoming more technical. We need more women in STEM programs and tech leadership to help us sustain growth.

It’s also important to grow the share of women in tech and leadership roles from a strategic perspective. It is well established that diverse experiences and backgrounds are best suited to solving complex problems. In a male-dominated field like technology, women can make a big difference in solving difficult situations. And on a personal level, I want the women in my life to have the opportunity to pursue their own personal ambitions and goals without needing to break through added barriers just because of their gender.

So, how do we begin to solve these issues?

While there’s a broad societal imperative to get women more involved in STEM programs, it’s important that all companies, including DXC Technology, tangibly support initiatives that recruit women to the tech field. This is a good start, but it’s not enough. More must be done to address systemic inequality and the slow pace of progress.

Surely tech companies that have demonstrated remarkable abilities to create breakthroughs in computing, artificial intelligence and other areas can apply some of that intellectual horsepower to this issue. But inequality in the workforce is not so much an IQ problem as it is an EQ and business problem.

There are three areas where I think a shift in perspective can help us achieve faster gains:

  • Recalibrate talent evaluation. Companies (DXC included) need to broaden the lens through which we identify and quantify talent. There are some skill areas where diverse candidates have not yet achieved parity, yet we often overvalue these same areas when evaluating people for recognition and career progression. However, a candidate with greater diversity can bring valuable new perspective that helps build a better team or solution. That diversity is a differentiator in and of itself, and I think it deserves more weight in decision-making.
  • Better support women in leadership. Women struggle constantly with various demands on their time and they constantly evaluate whether the sacrifice they’re making for their role at a company is worth the trade-off at home. I think that’s why we see more workforce balance in the lower ranks and a deficit that continues to widen in the higher ranks. Over time, we fail to support and retain women as they grow throughout their career. How we recognize their talent and how we reward and retain them makes a difference.
  • Lead through action. Perhaps most importantly, as leaders, we can acknowledge these things, we can write checks and support employees who wish to donate time to these causes – but that’s not enough. We need to do more than give money and pay lip service to these issues. We first need to truly recognize the intrinsic value of a more diverse and well-rounded team and then take deliberate action — specific steps to change our company culture and practices. And that only happens when leaders demonstrate their intent with actions.

That’s why I am an executive sponsor of Women@DXC, the program we’ve developed to accelerate change inside our own organization. I can push on my leadership team to make this issue a priority, but I have to be visibly and actively supportive, not just passively agreeable to the idea. Real progress can only be achieved if I spend my own time and energy on this issue. It will only happen if I make it a priority on my calendar.

When we take clear steps to address this long-standing issue inside our own company, we send an important signal to women that they are recognized and supported. At DXC, I intend to make it clear through action that we can be their preferred employer for the long term.

Comments

  1. David Stephenson says:

    I completely agree that unfair barriers-to-entry should be removed but what is the target? Is it an arbitrary 50% male and 50% female? All industries have their own imbalances – for example primary school teachers and chorusline dancers are mainly female, while deep sea trawlers and heavy industries are usually staffed by males, yet no one would lament the facts and expect it to change. The key should be equality of *opportunity*, rather than equality of outcome.

  2. Geetanjali says:

    This kind of approach will make you great and more branded firm. Will be happy to part of this company.

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