One of the missions of this year’s International Women’s Day is “to forge inclusive work cultures where women’s careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated.”
Accenture research conducted during the pandemic shows just how far we have to go to meet that mission.
Our research found that women feel significantly less support from their employers than workers overall in the moments that matter like onboarding, compensation, and life events. We also found that 29% of women report lower support across the talent lifecycle, compared to 26% overall.
CIOs have a critical role to play in the effort to increase women’s career potential—especially because IT needs women more than ever. This starts with getting the day-to-day experiences right. For example, our research shows that women are less comfortable speaking up at their work at (67% compared to 71% overall) and have less influence over decisions (55% compared to 60% overall).
Leaders need to empower women to make decisions about work based on their unique situations and provide skilling and advancement opportunities that support women’s career goals. Leaders need to create an inclusive workplace environment in which women feel safe speaking up and advocating for themselves. And leaders need to play an active role in women’s career growth: Just over half (55%) of women surveyed report having a senior leader that is helping them grow, compared to 62% of employees overall.
Here are six concrete ways CIOs and technology leaders can build an inclusive culture that protects psychological safety and boosts trust and empathy for all employees:
- Actively promote women. Women need to see leaders who look like them and inspire them to progress up through their career journeys.
- Let both parents parent: Improve parental leave policies and make sure everyone is encouraged to use them.
- Make it a metric: Set goals and targets to increase diversity and hold leaders accountable. Set recruiting objectives to meet these targets.
- Send reinforcements: Provide women-specific support, like mentors, sponsors, and employee resource networks.
- Encode creativity: Promote the role of tech in driving world-changing innovation.
- Meet on their terms: Encourage inclusive networking events when everyone can join. Showcase female leaders.
By now the benefits of inclusive environments are well known, but they bear repeating.
Creating environments where more women can learn about and work in tech will help companies meet the increasing demand for talent. Doing this means demonstrating the kind of culture you want to create. In short: women need to see women leaders.
Inclusive environments also foster a culture of innovation. Earlier Accenture research shows that the innovation mindset is six times higher in the most-equal cultures than in the least-equal ones. And workplaces that reward employees for creativity and innovation (which we define as creating new markets, experiences, products, services, content, or processes) are better able to attract and retain talent.
The combination of companies having the people they need to grow and women having the opportunities they want to succeed is a win-win for companies, employees, and the economy at large.