These gaps are present in some of the highest-paying jobs of the future, such as computer and mathematical occupational groups, which are projected to experience much faster employment growth than average.
The reasons to diversify the STEM sector are seemingly endless; it welcomes new perspectives, lessens economic gaps between racial, ethnic, and gender minorities, and increases team morale while promoting an inclusive environment.
In fact, research from McKinsey found that businesses in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability compared to the bottom quartile.
Promoting diversity and inclusion within the technology space
Technology giant ServiceNow – which has more than 20,433 employees and generates US$8.47 billion in revenue – says it has prioritized its role in supporting women and minority groups.
As the company’s chief transformation officer, Kelley Steven-Waiss found opportunities throughout her career to make STEM sectors – specifically the technology industry – a more inclusive and supportive place for women.
“When I started in the technology industry in the early 1990s, there were very few women in executive positions, however, this has evolved over time.
“I often say to women: ‘You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once’. For me, I graduated college, got married, had children, and am still enjoying my career – I just had to find moments to pace myself.”
But rather than seeing these challenges as obstacles prohibiting her success, she has changed her perspective to see them as opportunities allowing her to “change the game” for those who will enter the industry after her.
“I often say: There are women who help pull other women up the career ladder, and there are women that pull the ladder up behind them.”
Eight years ago, Steven-Waiss, joined her first public board and has since been an advocate for others to join. Now, she’s one of three. “If you’re not helping to pull other people up, you’re not going to have an impact, are you?” She says.
Reiterating the importance of supporting others, Steven-Waiss shares that these acts of support can be shown by showing encouragement – particularly through helping with difficult conversations, such as negotiating salaries.
“Every small step makes a difference,” she adds, “because each step helps to build confidence, so individuals can see that there’s a bar which is not too high to reach. I often think of how fortunate I was to have some of the phenomenal mentors – men and women, alike – who helped me along my career journey, so I want to pay it forward.
“If you’re fortunate to get where you are, you have to look in your rearview mirror and say: ‘Who is in reach behind me?’”
Investing in women to boost diversity
Diversifying STEM industries can be achieved in several ways. However, for Steven-Waiss, her best strategy was to reject the status quo.
“I never let myself accept that I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I set out to,” she says. “Otherwise, I would never have started my own tech company, because I would have thought I needed to stick to what I knew – which was HR.
“But every time we negotiate our salary, every time we make headway in a male-dominated career, we’re setting an example and helping pull other people up.”
Yet Steven-Waiss – who is also the founder & CEO of Hitch Works, Inc. (acquired by ServiceNow) – reiterates that women want to be propelled forwards in the workplace because of their skills and capabilities – not because of their gender. Because of this, businesses and leaders must invest in opportunities to show them new career paths to help build relevant skills.
For this reason, Steven-Waiss explains that empowering other women in the STEM sector isn’t just about creating ERGs around women. Instead, the focus needs to be on creating networks that build skills and mentorship opportunities without having to single individuals out based on gender.
“As DEI is so broad, leaders need to be aware of typecasting,” Steven-Waiss says. “If I had been typecast I would have never started my business because nobody would have thought that I could.”
ServiceNow also ensures that it provides several opportunities for women thrive – beyond the typical women’s ERG.
“At ServiceNow, we believe it’s important to promote mentorship within the organization and to have great leaders to model after,” Steven-Waiss says. “We thrive on having leaders that wake up and think how they can help bring others up the ladder, and how they can have the biggest impact possible.
“For people to feel like they belong, the inclusiveness needs to be about recognizing that people come to a role with a rich set of personal and professional experiences – I think this has been under the iceberg for too long.
“People get typecast by their title, so we need to appreciate all the richness that people bring to their job when they join a company. This is how we come to these DEI outcomes because it goes way beyond culture, background, and gender. It’s about the experiences individuals have had, the skills they’ve gained, and the richness it brings to the business.
“To me, this is what inclusion is; appreciating the differences we have across so many different angles.”
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