International Women’s Day: how are we supporting women who love their job in IT?

Feb 25, 2020

Nearly half of the global workforce is now female, a surprisingly high number compared to how many women were involved in the workforce these last few decades. However, the number of women in tech jobs is more disappointing, given that the percentage is even lower than in the 1980s. We know that IT, in particular, is struggling with the attrition of skilled people so, set against the celebrations of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at what we can do to change this. And to support the women that love technology and are interested in working in the industry.

Throughout our company, we have asked an international community of women in diverse IT and business positions how they experience their career journey. As part of our diversity & inclusion task force, we set out guidelines for how we can create the conditions for a more diverse workplace. Through a bottom-up approach, we are shaping the goals and tactics that fit our company culture best at this stage. We want to be a diverse & inclusive company where people can thrive, no matter what their personal situation or background is, in an organization that endures and can be passed on to future generations. Therefore, diverse role models inside and outside of delaware will be stepping up and spread their strong stories to fight recurring stereotypes.

“We want everyone to be able to develop their full potential. We cherish diversity as a source of creativity, leading to better solutions and personal growth. Nevertheless, the number of minorities in general, like women and people from a different ethnic background, is limited when it comes to leadership roles in Belgium. With a new internal task force (Diversity & Inclusion) we want to create a more diverse culture and help develop untapped potential. We want to empower all individuals with a ‘growth mindset’ and help them to be more visible, create a network, express their ambitions and turn their blockers into accelerators via skills training for example,” says Caroline Hillaert, Manager at delaware Belgium.

More than checking the boxes: What can companies do to attract more women?

“At delaware, we start from our purpose, ‘the why?’ and from there we give all #peopleofdelaware equal opportunities. The energy of our partners resonates with the whole company: a culture of trust and genuine interest in customers and employees, regardless of their race, gender or age, is what makes this company unique. As a female partner they never make me feel any different from my male colleagues and everything is discussable. Always.” - Pei Lin Yeo, Managing Director delaware Singapore.

Addressing gender diversity in the workplace and making it possible to discuss this challenge  are part of our corporate strategy:

  • What are we doing as a company to attract and retain female talent? 
  • How do women move through the hierarchical structure of a company? 
  • Flexibility in every part of their jobs is paramount for women. 

We believe that if a company wants to flourish in the next decade, it ought to be characterized by diversity – a quality that drives both development and adaptability.

The huge number of women entering the workforce has an impact on what our way of working will look like in the future. As a company, we can organize ourselves such that women can apply their skills, share their unique way of handling situations and thrive in our organization. An effective strategy promotes gender diversity, whether it’s through professional development programs, personalized training programs or coaching people to develop their full potential. A better maternity policy, clear code of conduct regarding flexwork/meeting moments and enhancing women’s job satisfaction also increase retention.

“delaware offers the flexibility everybody needs at their particular point in life: it’s up to you to assume your responsibility. Because we truly live our core values, a culture of care is installed. Webelieve in the fact that our people enjoy doing their job and that we want the best for our customers. That’s why we can always count on the understanding of colleagues, and our leadership. Even when things don't work out, our family situation is supported and team flexibility makes it achievable. Here, you are never alone: your team has your back.” - Evelien Vanhooren, Senior Manager delaware Belgium

The legacy of women working in IT

78% of students, polled by PwC for its research on the gender gap, can’t name a famous female working in technology. If Simone Giertz doesn’t ring a bell, you should definitely check out her YouTube channel. Besides influencers or CEOs in enterprises, all women in IT are paving the way for the next generation and their role models are friends, family and colleagues. They advocate a better work-life balance, speak up when they want to be heard and bring a moderate voice to the table when all parties are competing.  

“The woman who inspired me was my mother, she went back to work after having three children and went back to school after 20 years away, to have a better job. She went from ‛school attendant’ to  ‛teacher’ and it all happened when I was a teenager. I think it had  a great impact on me: "If she can get that far,” I thought, “then I can too." I'm capable of doing anything I want as well.” - Luciany Aparecido, Senior Consultant delaware Brazil.

“My advice for other women in IT is: be bold, be daring, believe in yourself and find your niche, there are many different roles for anyone to choose from in IT or business," 
responds Pei Lin.

How do women fit in a male-dominated industry?

“IT is a mostly male, analytical environment, but there is space and need for a feminine side. There is also a need for less extreme communication, not black and white, but all the shades in between. As women, we ensure that we stay in constant connection with our customers, our teams, our leaders. This is a very much appreciated skill in the industry we work in. Technology needs constant translation to its users,” says Evelien.

The main reason any person is hired is to provide a unique perspective, to apply a certain skill set. Women must embrace their perspective, and share their view on things. At delaware, we strive to create a place for everyone, where everyone is addressable and available for help, advice or just a coffee. We want people to be themselves and create a work dynamic that enables and provides care.

Women as mentors: thinking beyond business

IT’s a men’s world. According to a WEF-LinkedIn study, women hold 56% of university degrees overall, but just 36% of STEM degrees, and they make up only 25% of the STEM workforce. 

One thing is sure, women are underemployed in the industry. Although, when they do apply for a job in IT, they have the potential to work as mentors for other women, just because they’re on the forefront and have such a great experience to share with their peers. Women as mentors are often the connectors between people. Soft skills will become crucial in the future of work, when most of our activities will be digitized. Women’s understanding of meta-information concerning all people involved in a project, team members or customers in a meeting, can make the difference for the success of a project.

“Although we do have a mentorship program, I haven’t used it so far. I switched to different positions in the company merely by talking to the right people in an informal way. For me, that’s what works and getting the possibility to be open about what I expect from my job is what got me to where I am right now in delaware. I do believe the mentorship program is very useful for people who want to have a 1-on-1 talk or prefer a more private approach. And it’s great that we have all  these possibilities,” says Evelien.

As a mentor women create networks, they close the distance to leadership for their mentees and pass on the skills needed to thrive in a male-dominated environment.

IT and consultancy: solution-focused thinking

“I may not be the good developer, but I love problem-solving. Many girls or women just haven’t discovered the many possibilities a career in IT might have in store for them. I love working with the people and everyday there are new challenges. If you’re like me, I would definitely recommend IT and consultancy.” says Pei Lin.

IT is an ever-changing sector. It might seem quite challenging at first, but the fact that your job can be very diverse, means you can upskill or reskill whenever you want, making this industry appealing for anyone who is interested in problem-solving. Consultancy, on the other hand, boils down to helping people. Trying to find the best solution for the customer and getting recognition are two of the perks of being an IT consultant.

“I started working in IT by coincidence, it's a predominantly male environment, but it never made me afraid  because above all, intellectual skills prevail, so I'm as capable as any man to solve the customer’s problem.” says Luciany.

What does the future in the industry look like for girls?

Evelien concludes, “We’re celebrating the little victories and affirming our girls that they can do whatever they want to do. As a role model, whether that’s an influencer, a friend or a mother, we have the responsibility to show young girls they can be a female leader in a historically male-dominated industry, if they speak up and do what they like doing.”

Our #peopleofdelaware are confident that there is a huge untapped workforce in IT when we look at what women still can achieve.

The next generation is already dreaming of becoming scientists, programmers or managers while their mothers are getting the support they need from their team, their colleagues and  their companies to show them how great it is to enjoy what they do.

Although we still got work to do, the core values of delaware align with our goals for diversity and inclusion. It’s paramount that, on the one hand, a more diverse culture flourishes in delaware, reflecting society and, on the other hand, that we need to support people in their personal development to enable personal growth, help them voice their needs and their ambitions, create a network and provide upskilling or reskilling.

Discover what your personal trajectory could look like at delaware