As the Grace Hopper Celebration begins, Shilpa Srinivasan shares her perspective on workplace and industry culture needed to bring women into technology roles and retain them.
This seems like a difficult question to answer, right? I am one of those people who will read anything that even remotely tries to address this question. And, out of the innumerable discussions I’ve had with women in engineering regarding what we really need, I’ve noticed several recurring patterns. The dialect might be different, but the underlying message remains the same.
The following is a humble attempt to empower women in engineering to solve the myriad of challenges we face in our field.
I believe that first and foremost, what we need is a stable support system in the workplace. Research shows(1) that employees are more engaged and satisfied when they have a safe place where they can be vulnerable enough to discuss issues and struggles and where they can ask for help. For example, If you have just returned from maternity leave and are overwhelmed with managing work and a baby at home, a group of confidants can help share their own experiences to help you manage your time. Together, we can create these safe avenues by forming communities and lean-in circles(2) of like-minded women. However, without a formal effort from organizations to encourage women to form such committees, this need will forever remain half-addressed. Senior management in organizations have to work towards threading an inclusive and compassionate attitude into a company’s culture, so that every woman is open to supporting and seeking support from the community.
The second is a desperate need for more role models. Role models that you can see and talk to everyday. A friend once said, “Who doesn’t love Sheryl Sandberg? But, I don’t see Sheryl everyday. I can only be what I can see.” I’ve personally witnessed the strides women can make when guided by senior female leaders. However, with less than 9%(3) of women in engineering being in executive roles, there is a dearth of mentors in all organizations. Lately, we have seen companies invest in and work towards encouraging more girls to pursue STEM fields. While this helps in increasing the number of women in the workplace, organizations also have to invest in growing and promoting women already in the industry if they want their younger female employees to thrive, along with their businesses.
We, here at Groupon, are working relentlessly to address these needs. With our senior leadership being committed to empowering women in engineering, I have noticed similar attitudes being adopted by our teams. Groupon’s commitment and vision of Inclusion and Diversity can be seen through its sponsorship and endorsement of Employee Resource Groups. These groups play a major role in setting the culture of our company and provide a safe haven where difficult issues can be discussed and addressed. Being a part of the Grace Hopper Celebration is another crucial milestone in our journey. The energy, knowledge and encouragement we absorb here, is carried back to our teams and encourages us in creating an environment in which we truly belong and can thrive.
(1) Cameron, Kim, et al. | “Effects of positive practices on organizational effectiveness.” | The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 47.3 (2011): 266-308.
(2)”Lean In | Join a Circle & Get Involved.” 2009. 11 Oct. 2016 http://leanin.org/
(3) “Fact Sheet: The Women’s Leadership Gap | Center for American …” 2014. 11 Oct. 2016 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/report/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/