At least once in our lives, we’ve all found ourselves in a setting where we felt excluded. Arguably, it’s one of the worst emotions a human can experience.
Research on belonging explains why. We have a fundamental need to be part of a community because it’s historically been key for survival.
We may live and connect differently than our ancestors, but we still grapple with the psychological and social foundations of humanity every day. The workplace is one environment in which many of us regularly wrestle with elements of belonging. In tech, this often shows up as a conversation around gender diversity.
The male majority in tech is no secret. And while the gender makeup of the tech industry is shifting towards balance, Deloitte predicts women will hold just 33% of tech jobs in 2022 — far below the average in other industries. Women hold approximately 39% of jobs globally and 47% of jobs in the US.
In software engineering, the disparity is even more obvious: Just 14% of software engineers are women.
As a tech company that supports business leaders in professional services, Accelo is committed to bringing to light:
Awareness of diversity, or lack thereof, is present long before we begin our careers.
Accelo Co-Founder Chris Higgins remembers feeling out of place on the educational path to becoming a software engineer, despite being great at math and science. Her college computer science classes had a ratio of about 10 males to one female. Chris credits her mother, a computer programmer, with her ability to push through the discomfort and see a future in tech.
“I wonder how many other girls with similar skills didn’t move forward,” she says. “Gender balance matters because we may be missing out on the vast talents of some people who would really suit a tech career but felt they didn’t belong.”
Being conscious of gender diversity is one way to help people achieve the all-important sense of belonging — and simultaneously achieve your business goals. The benefits of diversity at work are backed by data:
Measurable outcomes are helpful for employers to know about, but it’s the less tangible cultural factors that employees tend to notice most.
The presence of people from various backgrounds and demographic categories naturally contributes to diversity of thought, and this is especially true in the modern landscape of distributed teams.
Lakshmi Ramesh, a software developer and Team Lead on Team Flux, Accelo’s front-end development team responsible for the platform UI, describes the enhanced interaction that’s possible when gender diversity is a priority.
“Being on a team with true gender diversity changes the whole dynamic,” she says. “During discussions and brainstorming sessions, our differences help us come up with the best solution to a problem.”
Lakshmi knows firsthand that not every employer succeeds in creating an inspiring environment for all.
“A few years into my career as a software developer, I had a conversation with my manager at the time about career progression opportunities. They mentioned it was risky to invest in a woman’s career because of marriage and family responsibilities. That was my cue to leave the company, and it made me doubt whether I had to make certain sacrifices in order to grow professionally.
In my role at Accelo, I’ve had the opposite experience. I recently got promoted to the role of the Engineering Team Lead a few weeks before going on leave for my wedding. It was one of the best feelings in the world to see that not every workplace is the same.”
- Lakshmi Ramesh, Software Developer and Team Lead
An experience like Lakshmi’s is representative of the power of company culture to change the trajectory of an individual’s career. When leadership commits to inclusivity, everyone feels it.
Chris says her colleagues at Accelo made her feel like a valued member of the team from day one, which was a refreshing contrast to her early experiences as the lone female in the room.
“They treated me like any other person at the table,” she recalls. “We all came together to build this thing we believed in.”
Establishing an organizational culture that celebrates all voices and all types of people requires consistency and dedicated action. It’s much more complex than meeting quotas.
Chris explains why: “Even when you have the best of intentions, forcing the numbers game can create an uncomfortable environment for those in the gender minority. They could worry that their peers will view them as having arrived solely based on gender, rather than merit.”
Here are some qualitative strategies to ensure your hiring practices align with the diverse workplace you’re building:
A focus on diversity shouldn’t end when an offer letter is signed. The women in leadership at Accelo understand that real acceptance of all genders is something your team must feel, rather than just a statement they need to hear — or a training module they have to click through. It’s about the collaborative model you provide via daily interactions and the way you respond to concerns.
That’s not to say sharing your company’s stance vocally and explicitly isn’t important. To the contrary, Chris says we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the cultural values at the heart of our organizations. Open dialogue can help bring issues to light and hold everyone accountable.
“At the end of the day, we’re all people, and we want to feel like we belong. Everyone brings their unique experiences to the table, and acknowledging those sends the message that belonging matters.”
- Chris Higgins, Co-Founder of Accelo
While it’s perhaps most notable in tech, gender diversity is an important component of business leadership in every industry. We want to know about your experiences with gender diversity — or lack thereof — and how you and your team keep inclusivity top of mind. Head over to LinkedIn to share your thoughts and converse with Accelo’s network of professional services business leaders.