Workplace inclusivity in tech—a study of top performers

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Workplace inclusivity

A diverse workforce can attract better talent, foster creativity, and boost productivity. A study by the Stanford Graduate School of Business even found that greater gender diversity raises tech company share prices.

How do top performing teams create inclusive workplaces?

Accenture and Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science, released Resetting Tech Culture, a survey of students, employees, and HR leaders that reveals the environmental characteristics that help women in tech advance and thrive.

Attrition hurts—and most leadership is out of touch

Women in tech face higher rates of attrition. About 50% of women who take a tech role drop it before the age of 35, compared to just 20% in other types of jobs. That means women leave tech roles at a 45% higher rate than men.

According to the report, if every company scored high on measures of an inclusive culture—on par with those in the top 20% of the study—the annual attrition rate of women in tech would drop by up to 70%. That would mean an additional 1.4 million more women working in tech by 2030.

Despite such high rates of attrition, many HR leaders overestimate their companies’ support for women and underestimate the effectiveness of inclusive culture as a weapon against attrition.

HR leaders are twice as likely as women (45%, compared to 21%) to say that it’s “easy for women to thrive in tech.” Only 38% of HR leaders identified building a more-inclusive culture as an effective means to retain and advance women in tech roles.

What more-inclusive teams do differently

To discover what defines inclusive organizations, the report segmented and analyzed the responses of the top 20% (more-inclusive) and the bottom 20% (less-inclusive).

The report built a model based on survey responses that identifies the cultural factors that positively and significantly influence the retention and advancement of women in the workplace. The model quantifies the impact of those cultural factors and scores every respondent based on the strength of those factors. Each organization is assigned a score according to a company culture index.

High-performing teams report women are more likely to be promoted or become managers. They also report that women feel that they belong: teams provide role models and are less tolerant of inappropriate behavior.

Workplace inclusivity

What policies do high-performing teams put in place to improve their inclusivity scores?

Let both parents parent. High-performing teams encourage women and men to take parental leave. Senior leaders lead by example by taking parental leave, too. That requires having clear paternity and maternity policies in place, encouraging workers to make use of them, and making it a cultural norm for everyone—at any seniority level—to take leave.

Make it a metric. High-performing teams set targets and goals for diversity in leadership teams. They hold teams accountable to KPIs that govern compensation. Most importantly, they publicly share diversity goals outside the organization. Transparency drives accountability and communicates an organization’s commitment to diversity to its employees.

Send reinforcements. High-performing teams provide women with mentors, sponsors, and resource networks. They carve out time during work to show commitment and create employer-sponsored social events that take place during office hours. Inclusivity matters at work. Avoid events that take place outside normal work hours—like breakfasts, sporting events, and work drinks.

Encourage creativity. High-performing teams encourage their employees to be creative and innovative. Employees feel trusted and are given responsibility. Most importantly, employees have the freedom to be themselves at work.

Above all, high-performing teams prioritize inclusivity to inspire change. From the report: "It comes down to focus, metrics, and holding ourselves accountable."

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