We live in an age when technology is transforming every facet of our society. In addition to innovations and inventions that are fundamentally changing lives and spawning new business, tech is also creating entirely new careers in areas such as security, blockchain, AI and health care.
But while tech opportunities abound in our global economy, women’s participation in the field of technology is on the decline.
In the U.S. alone, only 18 percent of computer science graduates today are women, compared to 37 percent in the 1980s. And by 2020, women will likely only fill 3 percent of an estimated 1.4 million computing-related jobs.
At IBM, diversity and inclusion are woven into our DNA. Our long-standing commitment to supporting women in the workplace began more than a century ago and women continue to lead in shaping a culture of innovation around the world.
The industry is taking notice. Today, at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Fla., AnitaB.org awarded IBM the 2017 Momentum Award for making the greatest improvement in representation of women at the senior and executive levels.
Creating a supportive culture
Companies that foster an open, flexible workplace can engage employees – the first step in igniting innovation. Our company has long-standing programs to create a flexible, family-friendly environment going back to our introducing a paid family leave in the 1950s.
And we continue to listen to feedback and co-create innovative programs – whether it’s expanding parental leave, introducing health, finance, fitness and wellness coaching or providing working mothers a concierge-like service to ship their breast milk home during business travel.
Our company continues to support flexible work-life practices that allow parents to meet personal and family commitments while balancing business needs. Just last week, Working Mother named IBM among the top 10 2017 Working Mother’s Best Companies for the 32nd consecutive year – one of only two companies to be on the list every year since its inception.
Investing in skills and leadership programs
It has been personally inspiring to watch my female colleagues balance their family priorities with their career and skills growth. But they cannot do this alone. Companies can provide the right opportunities and resources to help women progress while building a leadership pipeline.
IBM invests half a billion dollars globally every year on professional development for employees. Our female professionals have taken advantage of these resources, logging more than five million hours of development annually. For example, to cultivate high potential leaders, IBM created Transformational Leadership bootcamps. Our women leaders represented half of this year’s participants.
In addition, we’ve partnered with organizations like Working Mother, Anita Borg Institute, Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Girls Who Code to evolve the conversation and opportunities.
The gender gap won’t close on its own. Attracting and advancing women in the workplace are essential for a company’s culture to thrive and its business to succeed. And, as members of the tech industry, we have a vital responsibility to lead. It’s why, for example, we’re helping women who have been out of the workforce for several years rejoin the tech industry.
We will continue to push for policies and progress, but our work is hardly done. As men and women in tech, we must come together to create a culture and mindset where women in technology can grow and thrive – and encourage others to join us on this journey.
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