Women In Comms

Women in Tech Coming Into Focus

It's a good time to be a woman in technology, but also a challenging time.

Reading the headlines, seeing the statistics and hearing about the lawsuits and discrimination can make anyone feel pretty dismal about being a women in the technology industry, but the good news is there is progress being made -- and, at the least, the industry as a whole has stopped pretending gender imbalance is not a problem and started talking about what can be done.

This month, which also happens to be Women's History Month, has seen a number of telecom service providers rising to the challenge of making redressing the gender balance in our industry a priority. Chief among them is Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), which is instituting a mandatory minimum maternity leave policy that is one of the most progressive I've seen. The carrier said that across its 30 global operating companies, women will get 16 weeks paid maternity leave, as well as full pay for a 30-hour work week for the first six months after they return to work.

And, wouldn't you know, doing so might even save them money. A KPMG International study they commissioned indicated that global businesses could save around $19 billion annually by offering 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, because the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace women who don't come back can be upwards of $47 billion per year. Giving them four months off at a cost of around $28 billion per year still saves a company money and makes it more likely women return to the workforce.

Given that a Center for Talent Innovation study found that women in science, engineering and technology are 45% more likely than men to leave the industry within the year, incentivizing them to come back should be an important priority for service providers.

Read more about women in the technology industry on our business and employment content channel here on Light Reading.

Vodafone is just one example. This month alone, we've also seen High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) appoint a woman, co-founder Cher Wang, as CEO to replace Peter Chou; women at SXSW dominated headlines (including one most excellent call out during a panel on diversity with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt), and Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao is -- for better or worse -- bringing visibility to the issue with a lawsuit against her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield, for gender discrimination.

There is still so much work to be done, which is a theme that has come up at Light Reading's three recent Women in Telecom (now Women in Tech) breakfast events.(See Women in Telecom: Collaboration Critical to New IP, Pics: Women in Telecom Take London, New Skills Needed as Telecom, IT Collide, Light Reading's Women in Telecom Recap, Pics: LR's Women in Telecom Breakfast and The New IP Live!)

Women bring unique skill sets to the table that mesh well with how technology is changing. They think differently, and as Frontier Communications Corp. (NYSE: FTR) CEO Maggie Wilderotter best put it in a press release highlighting her company's efforts to promote women, "Diversity brings out the best in decision-making."

More women need to be in tech, stay in tech and occupy senior level positions, especially those with a profit-and-loss line associated with them.

Even with all the negativity, it's still a good thing women's issues are getting more visibility -- something we'd like to do more of on the digital pages of Light Reading as well. The atmosphere is changing in the tech industry. Women aren't keeping quiet anymore, and it's a trend that should go on long past Women's History Month.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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Ariella 3/23/2015 | 11:49:50 AM
Re: Women in Tech @sreedy do they still use the term "paternity leave?" I thought that the trend was to call such leave "family," whether it involved the mother or father. As far as I understand it can also extend to adopting a child. However, the reality is, according to what I've been told from people who have worked in such firms, people in high level jobs tend not to take such leave, despite being legally entitled, because they don't wish to fall behind or appear to be headed fora  Mommy or Daddy track.
Phil_Britt 3/23/2015 | 10:47:28 AM
Re: Women in Tech You are absolutely right about treating people right providing more benefit to the company than the cost for items like family leave. How many have gone to starbucks just for health benefits? Cotsco workers are far happier and better with customers than their Wal-Mart counterparts. 

That works with suppliers and contractors as well. Good relationships matter.
sarahthomas1011 3/23/2015 | 10:15:36 AM
Re: Women in Tech I will ask Vodafone what it's paternity leave policy is. Most [good'] employers should have one in place as well, as well as ways to handle unexpected life events for anyone they employ (short-term disability, PTO, etc). Interesting POV on this in Bloomberg today: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-03-23/the-case-for-paying-dads-to-spend-more-time-with-their-kids?hootPostID=381de000d3b88e8c9cc78c83fd37be3b
mendyk 3/23/2015 | 9:44:48 AM
Re: Women in Tech Our work culture -- which is rooted in the Industrial Revolution -- requires that all employees be treated as replaceable parts. None of us like this reality, but it's the reality nonetheless.
smkinoshita 3/22/2015 | 10:01:06 PM
Re: Women in Tech Mitch, some of the better places to work give maternity leave to both parents, recognizing the importance of family.  

The only way to inspire loyalty in a workforce is to treat them with respect.  Even with a cold, calculating financial eye one realizes that replacing good people is a lot more expensive than retaining them.
foundingfairy 3/22/2015 | 8:31:43 PM
Re: Women in Tech My perspective is one informed by my website and company, which crowdsources womens' opinions of their employers.  Instead of company PR and editorial opinions about which companies are the best ones for women in tech, we hear from the women themselves.  We work with many women's organizations in technology who have helped spread the word about us.  Women rate their employers anonymously and share with each other information about gender equality and support at their companies so that other women can find the best places to work.  Check us out at fairygodboss.com.  
jabailo 3/21/2015 | 12:46:57 PM
Re: Women in Tech The way I look at is ultimately Telcom is a creative business, that has to serve the user and their lifestyles and needs.

50% of those (potential) users are female who are potential Moms.

If we can't build our own (telecom) business infrastructure to accomodate them, then what are we selling?

Rather than think of it as a chore or burden, it should be an experiment.

How can New Moms use this technology and stay connected to the workplace while handling new borns.  

I mean if you think of an employee and consumer as a Guy, who doesn't have babies, then of course you build your world around that and you look at women as a Not-Good-Enough-Guy.

But you can't just do that...you have to start to think of employees as all sorts of people who might have babies, or children and build your world around that from the get go.

Mitch Wagner 3/20/2015 | 5:31:23 PM
Re: Women in Tech I have mixed feelings about this. Some of it I have difficulty articulating without sounding like a big jerk, so I'll focus on just one element: Maternity leave. 

Maternity leave is terrific, but what about fathers?  

Also, how about those of us without kids? There are other situations in life when family might overwhelm work, for example if a partner becomes seriously ill or injured. Give an employee a few months to get a family member situated in long-term care can have the same payback for employers as maternity leave.

These kinds of benefits help women. Children are better off with two involved parents rather than one, and mothers do better at work if fathers do more at home. And women bear more responsibility for the family across the board, so anything that gets done to help families helps women disproportionately. 
sarahthomas1011 3/20/2015 | 3:58:30 PM
Women in Tech There is much more to come on Light Reading's Women in Tech initiative, which we are extending beyond the live events (which we're ramping up too!) to our site soon. In the meantime, let us know how you'd like to see us further the cause for women in tech. What is your perspective on the industry and the gender dynamics in it? What can be done to redress the balance?
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