Diversity Woman Magazine

SPR 2019

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

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48 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N S p r i n g 2 0 1 9 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m Conversations with Catalyst A t Catalyst, we work with a range of corpora- tions and firms, and we know that women in tech- intensive industries face many challenges in advancing—or even remaining in their jobs. Our research shows that women in these industries are more likely than men to start at lower levels, report feeling like an outsider in the workplace, lack female role models, experience vague evaluation criteria, and leave to join organizations outside tech- intensive industries. What are the factors behind this disparity? e myth of meritocracy is one major factor. is is the belief—shared by leaders and insiders in many tech cultures—that the work environment is a meritocracy. But research shows that when an organization communicates that raises and promotions are based solely on employee performance, women are more likely to get smaller bonuses than men with equivalent perfor- mance reviews. Organizational aspira- tions to treat everyone on their merits are stymied by subtle biases that are difficult to overcome, or even identify. But often, bias is not subtle. e mascu- line culture cultivated and reinforced in the tech industry is often cited as a root cause of the gender gap in representation. Women in workplaces with this type of culture can be made to feel like they don't belong. For instance, they may be regularly subjected to innuendo and sexist humor. Women report that they don't often feel safe speaking up and have a difficult time making their voices heard. To cope, women often find that they have to act like "one of the boys" and accept gender discrimination. In addition, studies have found quite a bit of sexual harassment in tech companies. Women of color deal with these chal- lenges and more. A Catalyst study found Katherine Giscombe, PhD that as a result of microaggressions, professionals of color are in a constant state of being "on guard," bracing themselves for the next insult or bi- ased act. We call this additional stress "emotional tax," and we found that it decreases a person's ability to thrive at work. Our research also found that people of color who are on guard experience a loss of psychological safety at work—meaning they don't feel that organizational leaders and team members are supportive or will- ing to back them up in difficult situations. Not surprisingly, people of color experi- encing emotional tax were more likely to leave their employers. But there are ways tech companies can address these issues so that the women in their ranks are able to thrive and advance. One approach is to focus on the at- titudes and behaviors of the most powerful leaders. Rather than burdening employees from underrepresented backgrounds with the work of "fitting in," savvy companies are instituting interventions to improve inclusive behavior among senior male leaders. One such program, MARC (Men Advocating Real Change), strives to help men understand the critical importance of gender equality for both women and men. Catalyst has instituted MARC in several male-dominated companies as a first step in educating senior leaders to help create a culture where women are valued team players and future leaders. oughtful programs like this will make a lasting difference in career trajectories for women in tech. Just as importantly, they benefit the companies, which gain access to new potential leaders and a more inclusive workplace for everyone. DW Katherine Giscombe, PhD, is Catalyst's Vice President and Women of Color Practitioner, Global Member Services. The masculine culture in the tech industry is often cited as a root cause of the gender gap in repre- sentation. Point of View > ABOUT CATALYST Catalyst is a global non- profit working with some of the world's most powerful CEOs and lead- ing companies to help build workplaces that work for women. Founded in 1962, Catalyst drives change with pioneering re- search, practical tools, and proven solutions to accel- erate and advance women into leadership—because progress for women is progress for everyone. catalyst.org Women in Tech: Challenges and Opportunities

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