Act NOW to support today’s women in technology while helping transition young women & girls into future STEM careers
2019-03-08 | 10 min read
Today is International Women's Day, a time to celebrate the achievements of women around the world. As such, I congratulate my fellow women, including Keysight colleagues, for their far-reaching positive impacts both in industry and their respective communities. There are too many great achievements to name or reference in a single blog post, but my proverbial hat is off to you all!
With much to celebrate, today is also an opportunity to acknowledge the need for continued efforts toward gender parity worldwide, including in the technology industry. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), women account for 28.8% of R&D roles worldwide (as of 2015)1. Yet it is well known that women in technology jobs bring both community and company prosperity. According to the European Commission, encouraging women to engage in information and communication technologies (ICT) could boost the European Union's GDP by €9 billion a year.2 Also, it is often cited that the best performing companies have a gender diverse workforce, particularly in the executive ranks. For example, a report by McKinsey & Company noted that companies with more gender-diverse executive teams "were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation."3 In addition, diversity (gender and otherwise) in the development of technologies of the future ensures the full social impact of technological advancements are viable and supportive of the global good.
Such statistics highlight the importance to take action now in developing women already in technology fields as well as support today’s young women and girls in transitioning into future science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. Keysight recognizes its part in this action with a three-pronged approach to continuous improvement in this area by: 1) providing development opportunities for Keysight women employees; 2) supporting development of women in communities where we do business; and 3) sponsoring and engaging girls and young women in STEM education starting in grade school and throughout college and post-graduate levels.
Developing today’s women in technology – within the company
It starts by looking at the company from the inside and providing opportunities to current women employees. In addition to the career and skillset development tools that are available to all employees, such as online learning and leadership programs, Keysight has programs focused on women’s development specifically. I myself have taken advantage of company women’s networking groups where we gather to discuss top-of-mind topics on everything from managing work/life balance to strategies for gaining new skillsets. In some cases it is simply to experience women helping women within the company! There are many informal mentorships between Keysight women up-and-down the organizational hierarchy and across functional areas to support interests in new opportunities and advancement, which are ultimately a win:win for both the employee and the company.
Keysight also supports employee membership in various external associations, including the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), which offers a forum for learning and networking events both regionally and internationally. In fact, after many years with the company, I only just recently took advantage of the company’s program – named KSWEEP (Keysight Society of Women Engineers Program) – which pays for all employee SWE memberships worldwide! I am looking forward to the new connections and resources available to me through this program.
These are just a few examples of Keysight’s development opportunities for women within the company. There are also opportunities to take this support out into the community.
Developing today’s women in technology – throughout communities
Whether it’s a specific women’s focused technology event, program or organization, Keysight employees and executives often take their support of women’s development in technology fields out into their local communities. Within our headquarters community in Santa Rosa, CA, our senior vice president of corporate services and corporate social responsibility executive sponsor, Hamish Gray, sits on the board of the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation of Sonoma County. The organization supports initiatives for, among other things, leading change and providing resources that enable every woman and girl to achieve their potential through STEM careers in the community. In fact, the Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity) program, which is presented by the CTE and focuses on engaging local women in technology development, was founded by employees of Keysight.
Such engagements occur worldwide within various communities where Keysight does business and take the form of anything from individual employees volunteering in women’s events to site-sponsored programs to actively engage local women in technology. In Malaysia, for example, Keysight was presented with the Career Comeback ReIGNITE Award in 2018, in recognition of the company’s support for women returning to the workforce after a career break. In this case, Keysight was recognized as one of the top employers – and the only technology company in Malaysia – that played a proactive role in recruiting and hiring this rich talent pool through its Career Comeback program.
Again, these are just a few examples of how Keysight proactively supports women’s development in local communities. There are many more. But I would be remiss if I did not mention the need to develop the next-generation of women technologists.
Transitioning young women and girls into future technology careers through STEM engagement
Nurturing future engineers has always been a key component of Keysight’s philanthropic, volunteer and community engagement. In fact, the company has a key impact goal to engage 570,000 students and future engineers through STEM education by the end of our fiscal year 2020. So far, since November 2014, we have engaged more than 444,000 students. While efforts in this space are inclusive of all students spanning primary, secondary and university education levels, and include activities such as the Keysight After School education program, community education event sponsorships, and university engagement programs, there are many events focused on development of girls and young women specifically.
One example is the company’s support of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED), an annual event focused on bringing STEM concepts to students in grades 6 through 12. It is within this age group that maintaining interest in technology and sparking career aspirations in STEM is critical, particularly for girls, and thus offers a tremendous opportunity to get women already in technology fields in front of these students. Just a couple weekends ago, Keysight’s headquarters office held its annual IGED event, hosting 96 participants supported by over 70 Keysight employee volunteers with hands-on science experiments and speakers from our executives and engineering staff.
KSWEEP has also supported engagements between Keysight engineers and women university students through online meeting series’ and activities at regional and national SWE events, including on-site lectures and job fairs. Personally, whenever I can, I engage in informal mentoring of women at various universities that are interested in discussing their career paths and next steps. I find it incredibly rewarding while also providing me an opportunity to learn from them during our conversations!
Yet again, these are only a few examples of how Keysight, and its employees, support development of the next generation of women in technology.
Each engagement helps, but collective programs move the needle toward gender parity
Singularly, each of these efforts enable progress in women’s development. Collectively, I believe they help move the needle toward gender parity. That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement or additional opportunities – there always is. But I truly believe that if each company implemented at least one aspect of this three-pronged approach, we can make great progress toward gender parity in the technology industry.
- "Women in Science: Fact Sheet," UNESCO Institute for Statistics, June 2018.
- "Where are the women in tech? 3 charts that reveal the gender gap," Emma Luxton, World Economic Forum, April 28, 2016
- "Delivering through diversity report," McKinsey & Company, January 2018