How tech teams can inspire a culture of equality
October 8, 2020
Some of the most satisfying moments in my career relate to the work Accenture is doing every day to make us a more inclusive culture. In particular, for the last six years, we’ve shone a spotlight on women working in IT from our partnership with the non-profit Girls Who Code (GWC). The relationship is part of Accenture’s corporate citizenship “Skills to Succeed” initiative and aims to assist young women to secure a career in technology through inspiring, educating and equipping them with the necessary skills to do the job.
That relationship is being evidenced in a number of practical ways which you might find interesting when it comes to tackling gender equality in IT within your own organizations.
First, we are actively participating in events and clubs with GWC. We sponsor Summer Immersion Programs, held virtually this year and involving volunteers from across Accenture, including a number from our own Global IT teams. Our sponsorship is part of our philanthropic partnership and typically includes providing the space, speakers, field trips, meals and mentoring alongside prepping the laptops and supporting the tech needed. Strategic Operations Director Jen McHale-Bryar, who runs the Chicago tech team for the Summer Immersion Program, tells me it’s a task that many Global IT people look forward to each summer as they have a chance to watch how the students grow and learn over the course of the seven-week-long program.
We’ve also been conducting a series of virtual and in-person workshops for GWC alumni, and hiring GWC alumni as Accenture analysts, either on a part-time or full-time basis. In fact, since we began working with GWC in 2014 we’ve connected with more than 4,400 girls and improved the skills of more than 1,100 girls through our work with various events and activities. Our culture has been enriched by the contribution of 49 GWC alumnae who joined as employees and our own people have volunteered more than 10,000 hours to GWC. It’s an impressive commitment and one that I feel has supported our own goal to double the number of women in tech in the next decade.
The other way we are boosting the profile of women in tech is by investing in research and publishing thought leadership which offers insights and guidelines for retaining and advancing women in tech. It’s a commitment for the long term. In 2016, we teamed with GWC on the revealing research, “Cracking the Gender Code,” which outlined an approach to increase the number of young women studying computer science and entering the tech workforce. This research was a starting point to remind business leaders, educators and parents to invest in programs and curricula designed for girls, starting as early as junior high.
Our more recent report with GWC, “Resetting Tech Culture”, involving three surveys conducted online in the United States between February and July 2019, focused on the transition from college to workplace and career advancement. The report states that the proportion of women to men in tech roles has declined over the past 35 years. And half of young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35. Can we reverse this troubling trend? The answer is a definite yes—we’ve found that an inclusive culture (one that enables everyone to have a voice) is the master key that unlocks opportunities for women who are studying and working in technology. Read more about the five cultural practices that could help retain 1.3 million young women in tech roles by 2030.
At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one. I am proud to be part of the team where today 36 percent of our board of directors and 27 percent of our global management committee are women. And we have bold goals to close the gender gap still further. Getting involved with high-profile events that highlight the issues around women in technology is one of the ways we are achieving those goals. For instance, we were a Gold sponsor at the Grace Hopper Celebration 2020, an event that boasted being the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. As a reminder, Grace Hopper was the American mathematician and rear admiral in the United States Navy who was a pioneer in developing computer technology. We ran a series of virtual innovation workshops during the event that were presented by Accenture women at the forefront of innovation and technology.
I encourage you to find out more about our work with Girls Who Code, listen to our podcast or read this Careers blog and my colleague Tricia Barlow’s blog on the topic. Advancing career opportunities for women in technology is a top priority for Accenture—and for me personally—and I look forward to making it happen.