Before I began working at Accenture, tech was a big unknown. It seemed like a scary and complex black box. What was happening in there? And was it a place for me; a place where I could contribute, grow, but also be myself?
Now that I’ve been inside the box for years, I know how off my perception was. The reality is that tech makes the impossible possible.
All the advances in digital technologies, data, insights, and the cloud are a big reason we are making progress, even in times of disruption. Though it’s science and not magic, there is certainly something magical about being in this line of work.
That’s why I’m passionate about letting more women see the fun in tech and fostering equality and inclusion in my field. I want women to know that they do belong in tech, just as they are. And it’s their chance to be future-ready: Now that every business is becoming a digital one, more women need to be comfortable with tech to have strong roles and affect change.
Right now, the numbers tell a discouraging story: Globally, women account for only 16% of managers in the information technology industry. In the Netherlands, where I’m based, just 10% of undergraduate degrees in IT were earned by women in 2018.
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While many factors contribute to the imbalance, I believe that more inclusive school and work cultures and a more accurate—and attractive—image of tech careers are important ways to tip the scales.
And the economic incentive to achieve gender balance in tech is strong: Achieving gender equality in STEM education could add up to 1.2 million jobs and EUR 610-820 billion to Europe’s GDP by 2050.
So, what are we doing about it?
At the largest level, Accenture believes the future workforce is an equal one. Our leadership set the bold goal to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2050. We’ve already made significant progress: 42% of our board of directors and 27% of our global management committee are women.
Of course, we can only reach that goal as a global organization if each group within Accenture is committed to discussion and action. I lead the Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) agenda for our Technology Strategy & Advisory (TS&A) practice in Europe, which includes our Women in TS&A initiative, where I work closely with our global sponsors Diana Bersohn, Christophe Chartrin, and Greg Douglass, and with my counterparts in other regions, Vivian Ho in North America and Sumreni Lala in what we call Growth Markets.
The mission of Women in TS&A is to raise awareness among practitioners on key I&D topics. We not only want to champion diversity but to ensure that all our practitioners feel like they can be themselves and thrive in an inclusive and open work environment.
We want to drive collaboration and build diverse communities across markets. We also want to attract, retain, and grow our talent across diverse areas. Finally, we want to coach our future leaders and monitor our progress.
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Now that every business is becoming a digital one, more women need to be comfortable with tech in order to have strong roles and affect change.
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How are we working to reach these goals?
We have a four-part approach to building a community and network of female practitioners across TS&A:
- Internal outreach: focused sessions to share, network and engage on a personal and professional level
- Mentorship: an informal mentoring program that pairs women at different levels within TS&A for one-on-one mentoring
- External outreach: attracting and hiring the right talent
- Leadership sessions: quarterly talks where global leads share their experiences, career trajectories and learnings
In Europe, we recently had a session with all our managing directors on inclusive leadership. We’re also launching unconscious bias workshops. We regularly share available resources as well as our personal leadership stories. We are also launching a TS&A Female Friend program to encourage network building.
With respect to external outreach, what we're really focusing on is dedicated recruiting efforts that drive diversity hires. We’ve been sharing best practices such as what’s working well in other markets. And we’re trying to adopt successful tactics, such as writing job descriptions to drive more responses from women and understanding how women tend to make decisions about accepting jobs.
I’ve had great role models and a wonderful experience as a woman in tech. But I know not everyone has had a smooth ride or has felt welcome and supported throughout their careers. So, I try to connect personally with as many women as possible to hear their concerns. And as a company, we’re willing to look hard to address challenges, not only to improve the stats on gender balance, but the lives of real women around us.
If you have ideas for how we can get and keep more women in tech, or if you’re a woman interested in what we do in TS&A, please reach out to me for a virtual coffee chat. And definitely bring your true self!
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