Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. To help celebrate, I want to highlight some of the key steps that we take here at Belatrix to promote women in our company and within the industry.
While data on the percentage of female computer programmers in Latin America is hard to come by, in Peru for example, a Mozilla Firefox survey from 2014 found just 7 percent of Peru’s tech-industry employees are women. Hiring more women doesn’t just make good business sense, but will also play a role in reducing inequality and spurring economic growth throughout Latin America.
While there is a lot of rhetoric about the need to hire more female technologists, there is a lot more that can be done- the industry continues to be highly male-dominated. In Latin America this is even more the case than in the USA, where leading tech giants such as Google have been criticised for their lack of female employees. These are some of the steps we’ve taken, and we hope that other organizations can use and adopt them:
- Work closely with schools and universities to increase the proportion of female graduates. We work with universities in Argentina and Peru (where our development centers are located) to make sure female students are aware of the opportunity which is available. We also make sure to highlight our workplace practices so that female developers can see that we have an attractive place to work, and to remove possible stereotypes of working for a technology company (Belatrix recently received the Great Place to Work Award).
- Formal processes and benefits. At the very least, if you haven’t already, put formal processes in place such as anti-harassment. This should really be considered a basic first step. Also, make sure to consider benefits, such as working from home which are greatly appreciated by parents, particularly single mothers. In Latin America, the concept of family remains strong, and women continue to be largely responsible for activities ranging from housekeeping to childcare. The ability to work from home, or have a flexible work schedule, makes a real difference.
- Promote female developers within the company, and make sure that their success is visible. For example, we have women in our company who started off as part of a development team and are now part of our management team. A large percentage of team leader positions are also occupied by women. Once women have achieved these leadership positions, consider asking them to act as mentors to other employees in the organization.
- Support female developer communities. For example, in Lima, Perú, where one of our development centers is located, we help local female developer communities by sponsoring and organizing events.
- Invest in training to provide a fulfilling career path. For both male and female employees, the opportunity to develop, improve, and learn new skills helps lower attrition, while providing the skills development needed for further career progression. At Belatrix our engineers average 120 hours of formal trainings per year, ranging not just from technical trainings, but also to management and soft skills trainings.
We recognize it is an ongoing challenge to increase the number of female employees in a male dominated industry. Measuring these efforts is critical, and so far we have increased the proportion of women to nearly one-third of employees (from less than a quarter 3 years ago). While there is still a way to go, we believe these efforts are having an effect.
In our experience there are numerous business benefits to having a more balanced workplace. These benefits are also supported by research — for example, a study by McKinsey & Company found that companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially. However while it’s good to hear that there are business benefits, let’s instead simply look to the words of the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who when asked last year why gender equality is important, said “Because it’s 2015”.