For a Gender-Balanced Workforce, Businesses Should Copy Xerox's Approach

Without gender balance, your enterprise is hobbled.

The world’s population is split evenly among men and women.

But not in the tech world, which skews heavily toward men. For example, men account for 79 percent of CIO’s audience. And they probably make up most of your staff. No surprises there.

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What may surprise you, however, is that one major corporation annually recruits women to comprise almost 40 percent of its new college engineering hires.

I read recently about these hiring practices led by Sophie Vandebroek, CTO for Xerox , and I spoke with her to find out how, and why, she does it.

Vandebroek told me that for decades, Xerox has had a commitment to diversity in the workplace. But even with that commitment, five years ago only about 10 percent to 15 percent of the company’s new college engineering hires were female.

So she and her team set out in 2002 to change that ratio. And man (or should I say woman?), did they ever.

Their effort is based on a simple plan that stresses proactive campus recruiting (often led by a senior female tech leader) coupled with a comprehensive summer internship program also focused on reaching out to women.

Besides making sure boys and girls can play together on the softball team at the annual summer outing, what’s the value add, and the key business drivers, that lead Xerox to invest in building a more gender-balanced tech workforce?

Vandebroek maintains that “an inclusive environment allows Xerox to be more innovative. Our global customers are from diverse cultures worldwide, and many are women. It’s essential to have the female and global perspective represented in our products and services.”

For me, the key words are “inclusive,” “perspective” and “innovative.” As the readers of this magazine and website create a more gender-balanced workforce, the better their perspective on their customers’ needs will be and the more innovative their solutions will become.

As an added benefit, hiring more female tech workers just might inspire young women in middle school classrooms across America to emulate careers like Sophie Vandebroek’s.

And that’s a good thing.

Publisher Emeritus Gary Beach can be reached at gbeach@cio.com.

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