Every year in March, we celebrate the accomplishments of women on International Women’s Day. Women have and continue to create, discover, and innovate new products and services for the global economy. However, much progress has been made, there are still setbacks. It’s widely reported that women make 79 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Another widely reported statistic is the number of women leaders in the technology sector. According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), only 25 percent of the computing workforce were women last year. If you examine the data further, 5 percent were Asian, 3 percent were African-American, and 1 percent were Hispanic.
This year’s HR Technology Conference and Expo is hosting a new event, “Women in HR Technology.” It will take place on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 prior to the conference. The cost to attend is included your conference registration. Don’t forget HR Bartender readers can receive a $200 discount on registration using the code LAUBY16.
The closing keynote for the Women in HR Technology event is Dr. Tacy Byham, CEO of DDI, a global leadership consultancy that helps the world’s most successful companies transform the way they select, develop, and accelerate leaders. They have over 42 offices in 26 countries. She is the author of “Your First Leadership Job.” I had the chance to speak with Dr. Byham about the title of her session – #LeadLikeAGirl.
Dr. Byham, I don’t want to give away your session, but can you provide a brief description of what #LeadLikeAGirl means?
[Byham] I was inspired by the ‘Like A Girl’ advertising that ran during the Super Bowl. Research tells us that confidence in young women plummets during puberty. It’s time to reclaim the word ‘girl’ as a strong term and eliminate the stereotype that the word implies weakness.
I just had the conversation at the Association for Talent Development Conference. The message is resonating with people, not just women. During the session, I’ll be sharing some new data from DDI about women in the workplace and encouraging everyone to pay the message forward.
(Editor’s Note: If you haven’t seen the “Like A Girl” ad campaign, you can view it on YouTube.)
I’m glad you mentioned the stereotypes associated with the word “girl.” Since there are people who perceive it with a negative connotation, especially in a business context, why use it?
[Byham] I attended Mount Holyoke College, one of the oldest women’s educational institutions in the U.S. I remember hearing on my first day, “You’re not at a girls’ school; you’re at a women’s college.” We were told to introduce our fellow classmates as women. I totally understand that #LeadLikeAGirl is provocative. But it’s time for us to become more gender neutral. The goal isn’t to have men acting like women. Each of us needs to focus on becoming the best ever version of ourselves.
#LeadLikeAGirl is about reframing the conversation for the next generation of leaders in the workplace.
How does technology influence #LeadLikeAGirl (and vice versa)?
[Byham] Really great question. DDI has been working with the professional services firm Ernst & Young to research what it takes to become a digital leader. Not just your typical leadership skills but including how environment, personality, and curiosity factor into leadership. We’re also looking specifically at women in leadership. Our goal is to have findings to share in early 2017.
For example, one of the things we’ve learned is that women have nearly 10 times more white matter than men. This doesn’t mean that women are smarter, but it does indicate that women are better at making connections between things. It might explain why women are considered better multitaskers. There’s a plus side to white matter: it allows an individual to see concepts in a broad context, possibly creating new opportunities for exploration. There’s also a downside: those connections might mean that we continuously recall or rehash mistakes, holding us back from opportunities for growth.
Much has been said about the lack of women in the technology sector. For women looking to pursue a technology career, what advice would you give them?
[Byham] At DDI, our goal is to help organizations select and develop leaders. We do that by identifying a person’s strengths. DDI uses a scientific assessment center, think of it as similar to a flight simulator. We have participants show us how they would handle multiple activities such as developing a presentation, resolving a conflict between employees, etc.
When it comes specifically to technology, let me share with you one slice of data. Our research has found that if you majored in a technology-related field, your strengths are in the areas of implementation and execution, while gaps might appear in building influence and developing compelling communications.
What can women do to help other women in their careers? Anything specific for tech careers? And what can men do? (Is it the same or different?)
[Byham] In the August issue of Harvard Business Review, there’s an article about “Why Diversity Programs Fail.” It’s a good read. The big takeaway is that if organizations want diversity, they need process change. Organizations have to remove unconscious bias to create high potential talent pools. Women must have equal access to the same opportunities for coaching, mentoring, work experiences, etc.
Here are two things both men and women can do: On an organizational level, influence the processes that are keeping change from taking place. On an individual level, offer to sponsor a more junior individual. Give them a voice to speak up and ask for mentoring and coaching.
Diversity isn’t a women’s issue; it’s an organizational issue. We have to create cultures that allow for diversity of thought, ideas, innovation, and creativity. Organizations with greater diversity do better in every way – they hire the best talent and it shows in their bottom-line results.
My thanks to Dr. Byham for giving us a peek into her #LeadLikeAGirl session at the HR Technology Conference in October. I know I’m excited to attend the event.
The only way we’re able to influence change is by getting educated and taking action.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby in a dark Washington, D.C. restaurant hallway on the way to the (right) restroom