Cultivating a Gender Inclusive I.T. Workforce

Cultivating a Gender Inclusive I.T. Workforce

Minnesota is facing a shortage of tech talent – in addition to the shortage, there is an alarming gap in gender equity.  Women, especially women of color, are essentially “absent” from technology innovation across the United States, according to The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).

Ineffective strategic leadership allows underrepresentation in computing to persist. So, how do we create a gender inclusive IT workforce?

Over the last five years of supporting computing related initiatives at the K12 and college level, we’ve learned one of the most impactful ways to get engaged and provide support to young women is through mentorships.  Through mentorship, internships, and job shadowing programs, young women gain the exposure needed to inspire curiosity and interest in information technology related career paths.  Employers should leverage the same college recruiting approaches when considering engagement with students at the K12 level. Young women at the K12 level are a generally untapped resource. They will be entering the workforce by 2024, when 1.1 million computing-related job openings are expected.  At the current rate, only 45% of these jobs could be filled by U.S. computing bachelor’s degree recipients (source: NCWIT).

Organizations must also take a comprehensive, systemic approach in order to increase gender diversity.  With the growing realization that not embracing diversity might impede their ability to keep growing, Google explored ways to integrate gender inclusivity into their business goals, mission and values.  They introduced their Diversity Core program in 2015, a formal program in which employees contribute one-fifth of their time to initiatives aimed at attracting more women and minorities and creating a more welcoming culture for them.

WATCH: In Good Company: Supporting Women in Technology Careers (source: Work Day)

Google executives are confident that the organization’s embrace of diversity will begin to show up in its workforce soon.  The company offered an inside look at its efforts—including interviews with employees in different parts of the company, both techies and non-techies, and at various levels of seniority.  While it is a trend in the tech industry to follow Google’s lead, many organizations are struggling with their approach to gender diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

At the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence, we are proponents of developing experiential learning for young women and minorities at the K12 level with aspirations in computing in partnership with industry leaders like NCWIT.  It is important to the growth of Minnesota’s tech sector to support initiatives that drive women and minority engagement in computing related learning and career opportunities.