As I see my 15-year old niece excel in high school, taking on advanced placement courses in English, overcoming the remote-learning challenges of no lab for chemistry class (I couldn’t even imagine), setting aside time to volunteer in her community, and also enjoying being a part of the JV volleyball team, I’m reminded of myself at that age … with a college-bound mindset, trying to figure out what I was good at, what I enjoyed, and show my well-rounded capabilities, knowing that this was important to go to college.  But I had no idea of the career options that were in front of me.  And I certainly didn’t know about the semiconductor industry.  I believe my niece will succeed at whatever career she chooses, but I wonder: Will she know about the STEM career choices she has?  It is my hope that she, along with many other women who choose to have a career, are informed of something I didn’t know about at her age: that there are vast career options for women in STEM.

My niece is the very human face of an industry trend that, if reversed, could help not only individuals prosper but also semiconductor companies. I’m honored to have co-authored a report on this very topic, “Sponsorship of Women Drives Innovation and Improves Organizational Performance.” Allow me to share a few key learnings from it.

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Not enough women = Less than full potential

Although 47% of today’s workforce is women, they represent just 25% of U.S. information technology workers. And 57% of college graduates are women, yet men remain twice as likely as women to study engineering. Only 8% of female undergraduates pursue IT degrees and just 8% become engineering graduates.

Given these numbers, we cannot be surprised that just 8% of technology patent holders are women. And technology startups founded by women receive venture capital funding at a measly 2%.

I do believe filling the pipeline with more women is the right thing to do. But it’s a “right thing to do” that also comes with proven business benefits. Diverse and gender-equal firms and teams perform better--us data and engineering types have proven that through multiple studies (hopefully a few led by women). So, given the dearth of women in the semiconductor industry, it’s safe to say that we’re not performing up to our full potential.

When we do, it shows. Take Lisa Su, CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), for example. She is one of a select few female CEOs of U.S. semiconductor companies and has steered a remarkable turnaround for AMD. Su took the helm in 2014. Since 2016, AMD has demonstrated substantial year-on-year revenue growth. Her leadership resulted in a nearly 300% stock rise in 2018.

So why aren’t there more Lisa Su’s in semiconductor leadership? Our research shows two major reasons: unconscious bias and a lack of formal support for women rising to leadership.

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"Mentorship programs have been essential for the personal development of women in the industry. When done properly, they can add value to the business, increase engagement with women and drive innovation for the benefit of the entire company."

- ANDREIA CATHELIN, Technical Fellow – STMicroelectronics

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Unconscious bias

Gender bias, while in many cases unconscious, is a major barrier to filling the pipeline for more women in leadership. It begins when women are girls, with males and females diverging on STEM subjects well before college. The idea that boys excel in math and science while women lean more toward liberal arts pursuits is not a valid one.

The more semiconductor C-suites lead their companies to sponsor and support programs that foster female interest in STEM at a young age, the faster we can get to gender balance in the industry. The organizations below all do a great job of introducing females to, and supporting their interest in, STEM-related fields:

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Girls Who Code

A US non-profit organization that runs summer programs teaching programming skills to high school girls.

I Wish

An Irish initiative hoping to encourage more female students into studying STEM subjects.

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WISE

A UK non-profit organization that hopes to increase the presence of women in STEM jobs by 30% in 2020.

Coder Dojo

A network of free, volunteer-led computer programming clubs for young people aged 7-17.

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Girls in Tech

A global network of groups that aim to boost the visibility of women in tech jobs by hosting events and providing employment resources.

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Semiconductor leaders need to move beyond support, though, and into the critical micro-actions that bring women not just into the industry, but into industry leadership. Susan Weiher, VP of engineering operations at Osram, describes how her company is approaching the challenge as an opportunity: “Positive endorsement by other women in leadership is critical for combatting gender bias. I encourage my peers and team members to bring at least 50% of the proposed promotion candidates as team members of diverse backgrounds, asking them to describe reasons for promotions for the other 50% that include their capability to support and encourage open dialogue around alternative viewpoints such as active diversity inclusion.”

Efforts like Osram’s are the concrete actions that begin to move the needle beyond good intentions.

A lack of formal support

There’s mentorship and there’s sponsorship. Women need both but sponsorship has intense impact on women’s ability to move up in a semiconductor company.

Sponsors vs. Mentors – What’s the difference?

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Sponsors Act

  • Connect protégés to career opportunities
  • Advocate for protégés advancement
  • Support risk-taking
  • Publicly endorse protégés
  • Confront and interrupt bias

Mentors Advise

  • Reduce isolation and stress
  • Navigate unwritten rules
  • Build confidence
  • Provide tips and strategies
  • Promote inclusion to company

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Brad Kohn, SVP, general counsel and corporate secretary at Cree, is crystal clear on the connection between formal programs and women in the semiconductor C-suite: “Sponsorship and mentorship are critical, starting from the hiring phase through the leadership level. Sponsorship doesn’t necessarily change the direction of a career, but it sure does change the trajectory. The industry should be measured on what is going on at the beginning of the hiring process, not simply the end. The quality of your beginning entry-level talent pool is going to go a long way towards dictating the quality of your end talent pool in the C-suite.”

Intel has formalized diversity and inclusion with a five-pillar program designed to foster commitment in its employee and leader groups. It’s this type of formal support that helps change cultures.

Intel’s diversity and inclusion program has five pillars

 

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1. Pipeline

A program of activities designed to encourage young women to enter STEM, for example, delivering career presentations at schools.

2. Hiring

The first stage of the hiring process involves blind CV reviews where applicant gender is hidden.

 

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3. Integration & Development

A dedicated ‘Women in Intel’ network provides a lean-in community for first-year hires.

4. Technical Leadership Program

These are designed to help develop a network and open doors for aspiring technical leaders.

 

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5. Inclusion

Encourage people to bring their whole selves with programs on LGBTQ, disability and unconscious bias, which are adopted into the hiring practices.

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Wise first steps in the right direction

Demand for qualified semiconductor employees continues to rise. In a recent SEMI report, need for new industry employees in China alone (which accounts for 50% of global chip demand) was 400,000 additional people.  If semiconductor companies can close the gender diversity gap, we will not only improve profits and do the right thing, we will also avoid a massive talent shortage. From formal mentorship and sponsorship programs, to ensuring female representation on boards of directors, to education on and zero tolerance for gender bias, we can literally change the face of the industry. As we say at Accenture, let there be change.

For more detailed information on interventions that work and the state of women in the industry, check out the joint report from Accenture and SEMI.

 

Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document refers to marks owned by third parties. All such third-party marks are the property of their respective owners. No sponsorship, endorsement or approval of this content by the owners of such marks is intended, expressed or implied.

Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture

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Jolie LeBlanc

Senior Manager – Accenture Strategy

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