Diversity in IT – your free report

At womenintechnology.co.uk we often get asked to participate in new research or comment on particular issues. I was recently contacted by Forrester who were putting together a report on diversity in IT. As a thank you for putting them in touch with the womenintechnology network, they have offered us access to free copies of the report. It is US focused, and you’ll have to register, but it’s a quick (and free!) process and it’s an interesting read that reinforces many of the things that we have been saying.

I especially liked the idea of changing the language of job descriptions to attract more women, and to use more competency based interviewing, which allows interviewees to highlight their soft skills and give examples of how they have tackled a particular situation (allowing employers to separate those who really can walk the walk from those who can just talk the talk.) Both these things would help female candidates who are generally not as good as men at selling their skills and abilities.

To read more, download your free copy of the “Fostering A More Diverse Infrastructure And Operations Department” here: www.forrester.com/womenintechnology.

Networking events in December 2009

Although we’re not hosting any more networking events this year, there are plenty of events being run by other organisations that you can go along to during December. We believe networking is one of the most important things you can do for your career enhancement / progression so have a look through this list of events (they’re all happening in London so apologies to everyone outside of the capital) and get along to those which are of interest to you.

As ever please contact the relevant organiser if you have any questions and if you’d like to see other events listings, click here: http://www.womenintechnology.co.uk/events/

Tuesday 1st December: City Women’s Network: Female FTSE Report 2009 – Where to from here?

Wednesday 2nd December: Management Today – IT Innovation Debate (breakfast meeting)

Thursday 3rd December: Inspiring Women Series: Plug into Mentoring

Friday 4th December: CIO Executive Council Women in IT Networking Breakfast

Tuesday 8th December: MasterCard European Women’s Leadership Network

Tuesday 8th December: Women in Telecoms and Technology Group (WiTT) Meeting

Thursday 10th December: BCSWomen Christmas Networking Event

Tuesday 15th December: WES Shape the Future: Step up to the Challenge – networking and celebration of women in STEM

And we’ll look forward to seeing you at our events in 2010!

Thanks so much!

Women’s networks

Is it the end of the road for women’s networks? Elizabeth Harrin from The Glass Hammer blog wrote an interesting piece last week based on this question after attending an event hosted by Morgan Stanley, which I also happened to go to. It’s certainly an interesting question – women’s groups, networks etc always seem to be a controversial topic as many query whether they do more harm than good.

See Elizabeth’s post here for the full story, but in a nutshell it revolves around this quote: “We have to stop bringing groups of women together to talk about what we know is going wrong….We have to convince our companies to stop fixing the women. The underlying assumption with all of those programmes [mentoring, executive coaching, etc] is that there must be something wrong with women.”

Being a women’s network, of course we are going to defend them! But, with good reason. The first point I would make is that the woman behind these words, Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, seems to be referring to “women-only” groups. And I would say I agree that these are not the most constructive ways of encouraging progress. Womenintechnology is women orientated but not exclusive – in fact we always encourage men to attend our events and love it when they do! I also agree that women discussing what is going wrong is not a particularly helpful activity. Our events and training courses often do discuss the problems that women face and allow them to share experiences, but we then provide advice to help these women tackle these problems in the future. We often gear them towards skills we know that women – in general – struggle with.

Then comes the ‘but’. I don’t think it’s true that the underlying assumption is that there must be something wrong with women. Networking groups, mentoring, coaching and other female orientated groups and networks exist because it is no secret that there are inequalities in the workplace. Their aim is to provide support to women who often feel isolated in a male dominated environment and help them feel more confident and happy in their work. What’s wrong with that?

There are many interesting responses to Elizabeth’s blog that are also worth a read. What do you think? Leave your comments here.

The gender pay gap – again!

And so another story on the gender pay gap. The good news? The gender pay gap has narrowed over the past year and is apparently at an all time low. The bad news? It has only dropped by 1%. Let’s look at the main stats that the ONS has published:

  • Hourly wage rates have increased for full time female workers by 4% to £13.43
  • Hourly wage rates for full time male workers have increased by only 2.8% but are still higher at £16.07
  • Gender pay gap is in favour of women working part time who earn an average of £156 a week as opposed to £144 for men
  • Pay gap is now 16.4%
  • Public sector pay increased by 3% compared to 1% in private sector

Despite the fact that I know there is definitely a gender pay gap, I am always a little skeptical about the accuracy when looking at these figures – because I wonder if they compare like for like. For example – do they compare salaries of a male computer programmer with their female equivalent? Or do they compare a CEO with a receptionist?

However when reading this article I noticed the point that was raised by Harriet Harman, who is quoted as saying “Most women work part-time because they juggle the important work of looking after children and older relatives. That’s where the discrimination really bites.” The article then states: “The TUC calculates that there is a part-time gender pay gap of 35.2%, based on comparing the hourly earnings of men working full-time (£16.07) with women working part-time (£10.40).”

I thought this was really insightful . Yes a lot of women are getting paid less because they work less hours and yes the gender pay gap here is positive. But there is an inherent problem with this setup –the fact is that the corporate world makes it difficult for many women with family responsibilities to return to work, leading them to part time roles which pay them substantially less than they’d get if they returned to work full time. Once again it links back to the same issues: maternity and paternity leave and more support in the workplace. But as Harriet Harman says herself, the Equality Bill will help women progress even further. Let’s hope she’s right.

Why employ a woman?

This probably isn’t the type of question that you’d expect the Editor of Vogue – a woman that employs a 90% female team – to be posing. But it is! This article only appeared online this morning and already has almost 200 comments as it’s an issue that always seems to divide people. The main point of the article seems to be: is all the legislation surrounding maternity designed to help women actually doing more harm than good?

It’s a controversial, but very topical, issue. Author Alexandra Shulman raises some good points and it’s quite a brave article to write – as she observed herself: “It’s barely acceptable to write this piece at all – and probably impossible for a man.” She discusses many issues – women expecting to return to their old jobs but working less hours and employers saying that they can promote younger women to take over the jobs for less money. But her main point is this: let’s not make women so difficult to employ that it actually prevents progress.

We could be heading for trouble, as firms – especially SMEs – might think twice about employing women who could at any time announce that they’re taking a year off. So what can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen? The obvious answer seems to be to extend paternity leave. If both men and women were entitled to the same amount of leave, the prospect of employing a woman would be a lot less risky. But as it stands, women get 52 weeks and men get just 2 – for many employers, it’s a no brainer.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts below!

Leadership in Challenging Times

Get rid of the boys’ club attitude!

That was the main message from female technologists at our recent event – Leadership in Challenging Times. Held in association with WeAreTheCity, the event was hosted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in London and had a great turnout – thanks to everyone who attended!

As always, we asked attendees to answer a few sign up questions before the event, and as always we got some interesting and informative responses. The main message to come from the female technologists was that to increase female leadership we need to get rid of the boys’ club, appreciate diversity and support more flexible working. Here some other key findings:

  • 68% of attendees considered themselves to be a leader within their organisation
  • 93% agreed that men and women’s leadership styles differ
  • 63% believed that communication skills are the most important core competency for authentic leadership

When we asked the attendees what businesses could do to increase the number of female leaders, many said there needed to be more education in the workplace about the variations in men and women’s leadership styles, and that these differences should be embraced. Flexible working and coaching / mentoring were other popular suggestions to increase female leadership. Here is what a few women had to say:

  • “Discourage stereotypes that make women feel they need to behave like men in order to progress”
  • “[We need] awareness and identification that women lead in a different way and a better understanding about what women can bring to the table”
  • “Find a way of making family and business needs work in tandem rather than against each other
  • “Introduce mentoring and coaching within organisations, without a doubt. The culture of some organisations needs to shift from the competitive to the collaborative.”
  • “I consider myself a leader but struggle to be in a leadership position due to the nature of my male dominated organisation”
  • “Re-train male and female core competencies to all execs.”
  • “Get rid of the boys’ club attitute to promoting and hiring. Most people promote people like them – there needs to be more of an objective approach to promotions.”

Do you agree with these women? Are these the right steps to be taken? Would they improve the number of women in leadership? Leave your thoughts here!