From unconscious bias awareness to active diversity partner -- One technology leader's journey
2019-07-15 | 7 min read
It is often noted that gender equality and women in technology are not only good for companies, they’re good for broader community prosperity. A McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. From a technology sector perspective, unemployment across tech jobs was significantly lower (at 2.5%) than the U.S. national average (at 4.9%) in 2016. And 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. These statistics are all indicators of the role women, particularly those in technology, can have on improving the quality of life in local communities. However, in the U.S. only 18 percent of technology jobs are held by women, and according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), women account for 28.8% of R&D roles worldwide (as of 2015).
So, while there is still work needed to gain gender balance in the technology industry, I am encouraged by the myriad actions being taken to support, develop and encourage women in tech. In this post I want to highlight one of the more overlooked areas of such action – that of men being active partners in building inclusivity for their women peers.
Driving change in support of today’s women engineers and science professionals will take a cultural shift in the workplace, which is actively in process today thanks to people like Thomas Polok, Keysight technology order fulfillment production supply chain manager. Thomas recently participated in a regional Society of Women Engineers (SWE) conference in Denver, CO. As a first-time attendee, he represents a growing contingent of male technology professionals that are making the transition from unconscious bias awareness to an active diversity and inclusivity partner. Below are some of the inspiring anecdotes Thomas mentioned after his event participation. I share them, with Thomas’ approval, to highlight the opportunity such efforts bring to men, women and the community at large!
Why did you choose to attend the SWE Local conference this year?
I recently moved into a leadership position in the company, and that triggered me to recognize the value of diversity in the workplace. It is imperative that teams question the status quo and think of new ways to solve today’s (and tomorrow’s) challenges. This is especially true at a company with the kind of legacy we have at Keysight. Diversity plays a critical role in the ability for a team to think and act creatively, and to develop the best products now and into the future. I looked at the SWE local conference as an opportunity to learn and better understand the opportunity that having a gender-diverse team can provide.
What was your initial impression?
Within minutes at the kickoff breakfast and Keynote, I had a somewhat shocking experience. When I first walked into the immense conference hall, I noticed myself instinctively scanning the attendees looking for other men. I wasn’t looking for men to network or bond with. At first, I wasn’t sure why I was even looking for them. Then it hit me -- for one of the few times in my life, I was in the minority seeking out others like me. I realized that this is what many people go through regularly, either at work or in their daily lives. It occurred to me that this is likely what women, especially women engineers, experience daily when walking into events or meetings. It was a bit of an “aha!” moment for me to recognize how others likely feel every day.
What will you take back to your day job from this experience?
I specifically targeted the event topics related to diversity and inclusiveness to drive a better understanding of how I could personally cultivate an environment of inclusivity, encourage diverse discussions and better support women getting into the leadership pipeline. The varying panel discussions, presentations and techniques communicated at the event were a perfect fit for this endeavor.
In addition to the “aha!” moment I mentioned earlier, I brought back with me three key takeaways, personal actions really. I plan to:
- Support inclusivity within my team and the other organizations I work with by actively seeking out other points of view, asking people to share their own perspectives, and encouraging thoughts and opinions that may not have been addressed before.
- Encourage differences of opinion by fostering an open and welcoming environment.
- Act as an ally and a champion to women and minorities at work because it is clear change will never come from within these groups alone, we all benefit and have a part to play.
As someone in leadership and a position of privilege, I want to support the cultural shift and systematic changes that are needed in this area. I encourage others to join me in this effort, and together we can help build a better community by fostering diversity and inclusivity!