Six ways to be an ally for women in tech
Internal programs, industry consortiums, and email plug-ins are powerful mechanisms for driving greater allyship. But organizations should also establish day-to-day best practices to create more opportunities for women in the tech sector. Here are six steps to consider.
Lead with courage and compassion
Allies should have compassion and courage—courage to use their voice to respectfully call out bad behavior when they see it, courage to use their credibility to stick up for somebody else, and courage to be vulnerable.
“If you’re going to be a great ally, you need empathy,” says Fowler. “You have to understand that the person you’re an ally for might not have had the same experiences you’ve had. You have to be willing to connect and identify with their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives.”
Newsome agrees: “You have to speak to people in their own currency. Meet them where they are versus where you want them to be.” With this approach, allyship can become second nature—and spread throughout the organization.
Open up the aperture for tech talent
Supporting women in the workplace requires a diverse talent pipeline.4 One way to diversify the tech talent pool is by considering skills-based hiring rather than solely focusing on pedigree. College isn’t necessarily a proxy for ability and by requiring a bachelor’s degree for positions that don’t need that level of education, companies are automatically excluding potentially talented workers.
Another way to effectively diversify a talent pipeline, says Newsome, is by “moving from STEM to STEAM—science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Focusing on STEAM-related backgrounds, instead of just STEM, opens up the aperture for more people to participate in the technology sector for greater diversity of thought and experience.”
Prioritize inclusivity and tie it to performance
According to Lefebvre, “You can’t have allyship without having an inclusive organization.” Yet increasing inclusivity often requires a set of consistent performance metrics. Case in point: At Travelers, Lefebvre says “inclusive leadership goals are included in every single one of our managers’ annual performance objectives.”
In fact, measuring variables, such as inclusivity and diversity, could serve as a powerful business case for greater allyship. Take, Nabors Industries, for example. Two years into its initiative to intentionally support DEI in their workforce, almost 60% of the company’s hires in 2022 were diverse and 20% of internal transfers were women, says Aparna Mathur, Nabors Industries’ vice president of IT and DEI initiative leader. Additionally, attrition rates for women dropped by 20% over the same time frame.
Secure commitment from leadership
Leaders can play a powerful role in promoting allyship in the workplace. According to Alan Davidson, chief information officer at Broadcom, this begins with “giving people the opportunity to have a conversation with leaders.” These in-depth discussions, he adds, can help women build important relationships across the organization, granting them access to C-suite executives, regardless of title or department.
Western Alliance Bank follows a similar philosophy and has created an executive-led Opportunity Council, which provides employees with access to leadership and continually evaluates best-in-class DEI strategies. “Allyship, DEI, and IT is a team sport,” explains Jennifer Wilson, the bank’s chief digital officer. “There is no ‘they.’ It’s just ‘us.’”
Commit to learning—and unlearning
Great allies are willing to invest in learning—learning the biases they carry, the words that may make someone feel seen or excluded, and the ways they can individually help uplift those around them.
But the journey doesn’t end there. Leaders should also be committed to unlearning—unlearning the language, constructs, and ideas that are preventing them from creating inclusive environments. As an example, consider the word “tone-deaf,” which is often used in professional settings to describe how a message won’t land. This term isn’t inclusive language for people with disabilities. Everyone has the power to empower, but only if they’re willing to invest in continuous learning and unlearning.
Make each day count
Allyship can become a daily practice “if you move from ‘get’ to ‘give,’” Newsome says.
Not all allyship initiatives need to be measurable, sanctioned by the C-suite, or part of a larger DEI strategy. Rather, the biggest impact can come from the small actions in the day to day.
While random acts of kindness—like the senior manager who took the time to show an interest in Lefebvre’s talent—can seem small, they can make a huge difference in a person’s career with long-lasting impact. Case in point: Many years later, Lefebvre says, “I was able to be an ally for this manager and find him an opportunity that helped his career. For me, it was a full-circle moment.”
Learn how to be an ally for women in tech.
The executives’ participation in this article are solely for educational purposes based on their knowledge of the subject and the views expressed by them are solely their own. This article should not be deemed or construed to be for the purpose of soliciting business for any of the companies mentioned, nor does Deloitte advocate or endorse the services or products provided by these companies.