A balanced and diverse workforce drives innovation. Women account for 47.7% of the global workforce. However, only 26% of the jobs in computer-related sectors are held by women, a number that has grown by a mere 2% over the past 20 years. In the DevOps sector other research shows women account for about 13% of the workforce. This fact suggests that the more niche a sector is, the more skewed the gender diversity is as well.
Companies and teams embracing gender diversity are 27% more likely to outperform their competitors and generate above average profits according to researchers. Organizations focused on inclusion are more likely to innovate and gain from the benefits of women’s creative thinking.
While diversity is one aspect of it, simply bridging the gender gap means nothing without a culture of inclusion. Inclusion in its true sense refers to the feeling of belongingness.
Women in the workplace are often prevented from growth, as they are seen to have less potential and capabilities compared to their male counterparts. A second-generation gender bias exists in which women fail to thrive and reach their full potential. For example, women often feel less connected to their male colleagues, are advised to take admin roles to accommodate family responsibilities or are excluded from key responsibilities. These instances showcase work cultures and practices that are disadvantageous to women.
Now the question boils down to, “What can teams and organizations do to bridge this gender gap and build a more inclusive work environment?”
Diversity and Inclusion Should Be a Top-Down Approach
Planning and talking about diversity and inclusion are easier said than done. Leaders and organization heads should commit to and spearhead the change. This is not just a change of numbers on paper, but it is a change in the mindset that has been carried forward for ages. Organizations should approach this change by answering the following questions:
- Readiness to Change: Do we have the resources and knowledge to make this change successful and lasting?
- Barriers to Change: What is keeping our organization away from these desired states?
- Likelihood of Relapse: What could cause a regression to the former state?
Create Role Models
Women are exposed to both positive and negative role models on a regular basis, from a strong mother who fights domestic violence to a female astronaut who travels space. These examples affect a woman’s perception of her own potential.
Powerful, positive, and strong women role models are needed so that any girl can envision herself with those qualities and more. Relatable local examples demonstrate an easily imaginable vision of success.
Guidance and Mentorship
Women often lack adequate guidance and mentorship to show them the right path in the workplace. Mentorships are effective when mentor and mentee share similar life experiences and commonalities.
Companies should ensure women are guided well and encouraged to take up mentorship roles. As the saying goes, “Give a [woman] a fish, and you feed [her] for a day. Teach a [woman] to fish, and you feed [her] for a lifetime”.
Update Policies and Practices
Traditionally, workplace policies have catered more towards the requirements of men than women. Organizations must reevaluate their policies and practices to ensure they cover and address equitable requirements for all genders.
An inclusive workplace can be built only if agencies recognize societal and workplace biases and build solutions around ensuring every employee has a supportive environment.
There is a stark difference between defining policies and putting them into practice. For example, women get maternity leave, which allows an organization to say they have inclusive policies in place. But if they question whether or not she will return to work, how many teams are comfortable with having this woman on their team?
Teams hesitate to include such women as they fear the team’s productivity may be impacted. Organizations need to recognize sensitive situations such as this and work to ensure a supportive atmosphere is maintained.
While we see things improving across the DevOps sector, there is still a long way to go. Even a single step at a time will take us closer to the goal of an inclusive workplace for women. Organizations should consciously work toward this goal and strive to create a better place for women and everyone else to work.