Framework curated by Ameera Ladak and Stefan Palios in partnership with MindFrame Connect
Many companies understand the importance of diversity within the technology industry. However, women remain underrepresented in tech, particularly in leadership positions. According to a 2022 report, women comprise a quarter of C-Suite leaders, and only five percent are women of colour.
Larissa Suzuki, an inclusion advocate, and Technical Director in Google Cloud’s office of the CTO, believes the solution to underrepresentation can come from the actions of both company leaders and women empowering themselves.
Leaders can support women by applying several interpersonal and organization-wide strategies. These six fundamental mechanisms can help close the gender gap at higher levels of the organization.
1. Mentors can act as allies to women. Suzuki spoke of the importance of allies in addition to mentors. In terms of what allies can do, Suzuki said, “allies should not make assumptions,” and should not expect mentees to “educate allies,” on the challenges of “gender imbalances.” Suzuki also said mentorship is a two-way street—mentees can learn from mentors and mentors can see someone who will carry on their legacy.
2. Mentors can sponsor their mentees. Suzuki mentioned the importance of allies not only being mentors but sponsors as well. Allies and mentors should feel like they can invest in and sponsor their mentees to get ahead. Sponsorship can include promoting women and actively helping to advance their careers.
3. Coaching as a pathway to leadership positions. According to Suzuki, preparing women for leadership positions is essential. She believes that women often have “astonishingly technical knowledge,” and can benefit from getting trained or coached in order to better prepare them for more senior positions.
4. Create opportunities for technical training. Technical training is paramount for women to get a seat at the table in Suzuki’s eyes. She stated that women can use “different angles to create significant impact in the technology sector,” and the right technical training can assist with that.
5. Invest in scholarships and fellowships for women. For Suzuki, the most helpful mechanisms for support are the ones that create opportunities. Scholarships and fellowships are a financial way for organizations to provide more opportunities for women to advance in tech.
6. Provide funding for conferences and events. Similar to scholarships and fellowships, providing funding for industry events can elevate women in the workplace. Conferences and events can provide technical training and act as a place to “gather a more technical understanding,” said Suzuki.
Women can play an active role in empowering themselves and working with leaders and companies to support their own growth. Suzuki provided four pieces of advice for women to consider when trying to get ahead in tech.
1. Recognize the importance and need for women in technical roles. Suzuki explained that “engineers are doctors of the world,” noting engineers are needed in every industry from computing to agriculture. She also encouraged people to think about successful women of the past, and how they used their technical skills to create an impact.
2. Keep learning and building your technical skillset. Suzuki encourages women to “find a space you feel comfortable with learning,” whether it be hackathons or finding groups that focus on technical learning. She proposed using these spaces to understand the latest frameworks and get one-one-one learning sessions.
3. Don’t make assumptions about learning. Suzuki spoke about refraining from making assumptions when it comes to learning something new. She said that the “matter of acquiring skills can be quite fun,” and if you don’t make assumptions, you could be pleasantly surprised.
4. Don’t be afraid to switch areas or into a more technical field. Suzuki expressed that women shouldn’t be afraid to switch fields or areas. She also encouraged women to “switch back to working in a technical field,” even if they’ve been in a different area for some time.
Suzuki’s hope is that someday young boys will look at experienced women and say, “I want to be like them.” She believes that in order for that to happen, women need to get to those positions and their work must be highlighted and promoted more.
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