At the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, the companies we work with regularly express deep concern about their ability to keep their best talent. Many executives are surprised when they research differences in retention rates between men and women at their own company – women leave at a higher rate. Here are two examples of how to keep your best and brightest.
For many engineers right out of school, their first job provides them with their only experience of job and corporate culture. Unfortunately, their experience is often tied to young managers that are also developing their skills of people development, and often suffer from their own unconscious biases. As an example, Martha is a young engineer whose passion for software development for the web product of her company, was strong when she started in her new job four years ago. Three years later she was ready to return to graduate school in Psychology, eagerly leaving ALL engineering behind. Fortunately she ended up talking to a male colleague of her sister who had a twenty year career in Engineering. As he listened to her describe her situation, and described his own experience, she realized that in fact she was returning to school to run away from her work situation, where she did not feel like she was contributing, did not like her manager, and didn’t feel that the team was working together. She applied for a transfer, after talking to a manager in a different division who she really liked (female). She has now been in her new job for a year, loves the team, and loves the work. Women, more commonly than men, don’t have confidence in their abilities, and will leave the job at a higher rate without realizing that they have choices.
Another example is a talented Principal Engineer at a Semiconductor company. After thriving in her career for many years, she decided to have children. The company allowed her to move to a 32 hour week, rather than full time, without removing her from the technical career path – she was still considered for promotions, and her manager regularly discussed her technical contributions. She stayed at the company, because they did not put her on the “mommy track”.
These two examples illustrate two important points about retaining technical women:
- Women feel isolated and alone at a higher frequency than men. It is really important to provide them with access to role models and support for career decisions
Job flexibility is still important for keeping technical women, while still providing employees a road map for their technical contributions.