As an advocate for technical women, I meet many people who run the women-in-tech (WIT) group at their company. I’m always curious about what metrics they use to measure the impact of their programs, so I ask. In return I often get slightly embarrassed looks.
Typically, the answer is, “Well, we don’t exactly know.” Then comes a hastily constructed justification along the lines of, “We have annual goals for how many events we host” or “We run a survey for our members and meet as many of their needs that fit in our budget.” Clearly they’re thinking about the activities to offer, but not about the greater impact and how to measure it.
I’m not surprised. That’s exactly how I would have answered the question when I ran the WIT group at Adobe Systems. I founded that group in 2008, and while I’m proud of our accomplishments, I didn’t measure our impact. I honestly don’t think I knew how to. At the time, calculating the return on investment seemed like a holy grail.
However, if I were running a women-in-tech group today, things would be different. I’d approach it more strategically, identifying a vision for what would be different because of our group and how I’d measure the impact. And I want to encourage other WIT leaders to embrace metrics that matter for their programs, too. It could make all the difference in securing the budget and support you need to be successful.
Here are four steps to get you started:
Create a steering committee or advisory board, and ask them, “If our WIT group is successful, what will be different about our company?” Here are some ideas to explore:
For example, do you want to increase the percentage of women in technical roles, retain more women, or have more women in senior leadership positions? Great! Identify the goal and what you want the future to look like. For example, “Double the percentage of women in technical leadership roles in the next two years.”
Perhaps your company wants to increase innovation, customer satisfaction, or employee engagement. Pick an area and identify how the company plans to measure improvements. Then craft a goal for the WIT group that aligns with that corporate goal. For example, if your company has a goal to double the number of patents filed year-on-year, your WIT goal may be to “Double the number of females listed as inventors on patent applications.”
I recently read about a company with a goal to increase employee volunteer hours by 20%. If you worked at that company, your WIT goal might be to “Build a relationship with a local girls coding camp and provide volunteer tutors or mentors.” You’d provide a great opportunity for your WIT members and contribute to the larger corporate goal.
Get support with people across your company who can help you achieve your goals. Ask them for ideas for how to make progress against them. Figure out who can support your WIT goals with funding, and engage them as sponsors.
Depending on your goals and budget, identify how to make progress and measure your impact. Measure your baseline metrics, and identify activities that will support improving that metric. Here are some approaches:
As you start working on the activities that will make a difference, measure your progress and share it. Talk about the impact you’re having, not just the activities you’re offering. Not only will your message be stronger, you’ll be able to garner more support from across your company. And you’ll be more successful as a result.
—Karen Catlin develops powerful women leaders in the tech industry with leadership coaching and advising companies on how to attract and retain female talent. Formerly she was a vice president at Adobe Systems. She is a regular contributor to Women 2.0 and a TEDx speaker. You can find her at www.karencatlin.com and on Twitter @kecatlin.