How to uplift women in tech

'Everybody has a role to play in actively empowering and uplifting the women that we work with,' says SkipTheDishes VP

How to uplift women in tech

It’s well known in the world of business that women often get the short end of the stick when it comes to promotions.

For those in the tech industries, the effect is even worse — but a recent success story provides encouragement.

As a senior leader, Melanie Fatouros-Richardson, vice-president, communications and government relations at SkipTheDishes in Winnipeg, has been promoted three times in five years and has grown her team by 133%.

“Despite these industry-wide challenges, I myself have had the privilege of building a team of really high-performing women leaders, and I’m proud to be part of our women in tech group here at Skip.”

Despite the often male-dominated world of tech, some of its features should be considered attractive for female candidates, according to Fatouros-Richardson.

“So especially with tech startups, there’s a really unique window of time where you can have a direct impact on how an organization grows and evolves and that’s really exciting to me. I entered this field with a really strong love for innovation, and doing things outside of a conventional model, which was really attractive to a lot of people.”

Challenges for women in tech

For some companies, representational numbers are dire, she says.

“I always remember this stat from a report from McKinsey: for every 87 women who are promoted to manager, there’s 100 men across every industry. But when you look at tech, that number of women drops to 52 for every 100 men,” says Fatouros-Richardson.

“So not only is that under-representation but that leads to a lack of role models and leadership position.”

Success has been accomplished at SkipTheDishes due to a strong culture at the company that was at the forefront of the meal-delivery business that took off during the pandemic.

“They’ve created a really safe environment where… I’ve always felt empowered to take on new projects and challenges and increase my scope of work,” says Fatouros-Richardson.

Don’t be shy about using high-tech tools to ensure success of DEI efforts around women, says an HR leader of a leading-edge tech firm.

Pandemic highlights gender differences

In the early days, when many employees were sent home to continue operating the business, SkipTheDishes did the same with its 3,000-person workforce.

“So not only was that a massive transition professionally, if you were like myself, I have two children at home, it was a massive transition and time of personal challenge because I was adapting not only to a new way of working, but of homeschooling as well at the same time. Both internally and externally, we needed to be extremely agile and sensitive to what was already a really rapidly changing and unsure environment.”

While this experience showed that women face a tougher time at work, the same is true at home.

So what can organizations do to recognize this and allow women the opportunity to shine? When it comes to promotions and allowing upward mobility, a large part of the responsibility lies with management, says Fatouros-Richardson.

Uplifting women in tech

“Everybody has a role to play in actively empowering and uplifting the women that we work with and helping them move into leadership positions. This looks like: having women in visible leadership position; clear opportunities for progression within the organization; female representation within all teams; creating that diversity of opinion and thoughts; and flexible work policies that take into account different circumstances and challenges that affect women

“And, ultimately, there needs to be that holistic effort to make sure women feel their voices are accounted for when the business is making important decisions,” she says.

An employee resource group for women in tech played an active role in ensuring women are given a fair shot at earning promotions at SkipTheDishes.

“Historically, women have not applied for jobs if they felt they did not meet every single qualification. So [the group] shares open roles for awareness and they also support them throughout the application process, which is really important,” says Fatouros-Richardson.

In order to continue to attract and retain female employees, a “holistic approach” is important, she says.

“Some key things there are authentically promoting inclusivity, setting a measurable diversity goal, using unbiased hiring practices, providing mentorship and supporting networking and offering flexible work arrangements. So for myself building a high-performing team, particularly those led by women, I put a big emphasis on mentorship and open communication and empowerment and I like a practice-what-you-preach attitude, for lack of a better word.”

Role for HR in tech workplace

For HR, constantly communicating these goals and efforts are paramount to success.

“I would say just make sure that this is a consistent effort through everything the organization does. Talk openly across the organization about gender goals that your company has set, but give an update on those targets — don’t talk about it one time. Create that safe environment across all teams for women to show up as their true selves,” says Fatouros-Richardson.

In addition, find out what internal benefits programs could be implemented to address any inequities.

“You can look at your policies: menopause-friendly workplaces are becoming more popular and trending. Look at your parental-leave policy to ensure workplace equity; look at the partnerships that your organization has like partnerships with Girls Who Code that engage our young future leaders, but just make sure that it is ingrained throughout your entire organization and not just one policy that’s put into place,” she says.

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