April 8, 2022

6 ways to develop women’s careers in tech

career development

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The professional options for women on the emoji keyboard used to only go as far as princess or bride, that is until 2016 when the Unicode Consortium finally included women (of all colors) as scientists, doctors, or engineers

When Apple first released its HealthKit app it tracked blood pressure, daily steps, calories, respiratory rate, and even blood alcohol level. But it left out women’s menstrual cycles. Apple updated it a year later. 

A Stanford History of Science Professor, Londa Schiebinger, discovered Google Translate has a male default after she was repeatedly referred to as ‘he’ in translations of her Spanish interviews. A bitter irony when she had spent the last three decades exploring the intersection of gender and science. An expert in natural language from Google told her “We can fix that!”. This was Schiebinger’s reply: 

“Fixing it is great, but constantly retrofitting for women is not the best road forward. To avoid such problems in the future, it is crucial that computer scientists design with an awareness of gender from the very beginning.”

And how do we increase this awareness? By increasing career development opportunities for women to progress their careers into more senior roles within the technology industry.

And how do we increase these career opportunities? Well, we put this question to Paddle, one of our Endorsed Employers within the digital, IT, and online services space. Here are the six ways they are helping develop women’s careers in tech. 

1. Fostering young women to pursue tech

To get more women into digital careers means inspiring them while they’re young, giving them the skills they need to compete in a digital economy and then supporting them as they first begin their careers. Yet many girls turn away from technology studies at an early age for several reasons, including exposure to stereotypes and lack of role models.  

Dissuading these stereotypes is not just the responsibility of the education system, companies within the industry are also responsible for reaching out and offering examples and role models. 

Paddle has partnered with companies that offer programs, bootcamps and training that aim to close the gender gap in tech and commercial sectors. Some of these are: Makers Academy, Deloitte Multiverse Data leadership and Project Management programs, Venatrix, and SheCanCode.

Paddle also recognizes the importance of having women on their executive committee and senior leadership team to act as role models and inspire future generations.  

2. Inclusive hiring practices

When it comes to recruitment, having the right tools to help reduce unconscious bias across the hiring process is massively important at Paddle. They use job description analysis tools to help eliminate biased language that might deter women from applying to their roles, and also helps focus on the key skills and attributes that each candidate has to offer. 

To attract and source candidates, they also partner with job boards that are aimed specifically at helping women enter, re-enter, and scale their way up the workforce, like our very own WORK180 job board

3. Attractive employee benefits

While all employees should be equally entitled to benefits such as flexible working, research shows that failing to offer them can have a much greater impact on women’s careers.

To this end, Paddle has ensured they have an attractive array of employee benefits for all their employees. Including:

  • 17 weeks of paid parental leave (at full pay) with flexible return to work options
  • Paid personal leave for prenatal, medical or adoption appointments as well as for caring duties or other personal matters
  • Flexibility both for where you work from, and for the hours you work
  • Mental health support 
  • Generous learning and development budgets

4. Initiatives driving equitable promotion opportunities

Across all industries and roles, women are promoted at a slower rate than men. Indeed, only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men at the same level, according to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report. But the gender gap for women in technical roles is even more pronounced, with only 52 women being promoted to manager for every 100 men.

At Paddle, there are several initiatives in place to nurture the career pathways of women and close this gap. 

One of these initiatives is an in-house management training program, which helps develop the confidence and skills of talented women so they are prepared to step up to management and leadership positions. This is complemented with in-house coaching and a safe space initiative (to help with personal development and growth). 

And in 2022, they will be rolling out a formal career development framework and paths for individual roles. This will include structuring job architecture, benchmarking and salaries to ensure fairness and equality regardless of gender or background.

5. Mentorship programs

As well as the in-house initiatives, Paddle has helped women participate in external mentorship programs as both mentees and mentors. 

Kirsty Jarvis (she/her), Strategic Account Manager at Paddle shares her story as a mentee: 

“I’ve had an external professional mentor at Paddle for almost a year. The relationship started off the back of a recommendation from my manager, as we had identified from one of my performance reviews that I had some development areas that were holding me back from developing to my full potential. I experienced the same challenges in my previous role and company, but there was nothing proactive they were willing or able to offer – we were just waiting for me to be ready for progression. 

“But at Paddle, my leaders didn’t want to just wait for me to be ready, they wanted to help me and ensure that I was both confident and capable of growing in my role and with the company.

“This was a private mentor/coach, and it was paid for by Paddle’s Learning and Development Fund. It was completely tailored to my specific areas of development and was flexible around my work commitments. The mentorship has helped me greatly, I’m honestly like a bigger and brighter version of myself and seeing a lot of growth opportunities within Paddle as a result. Not only am I performing better in my role, but I’ve also rediscovered a genuine enjoyment from my career. I’ve been able to take on additional responsibility and I’m currently discussing significant career progression opportunities with my manager, all of which I don’t think would be happening without this mentorship.”

Paddle is also helping women within their company give back and become mentors to other women in tech. Lauren Douglas (she/her), Agile Coach at Paddle shares her experiences as a mentor: 

“I took on a temporary line manager role, something I haven’t done for some years, and this reignited my passion for supporting others and helping them grow. Once the line management role was no longer required from me, I decided to look for mentoring opportunities to continue to support others. 

“I signed up to an external program and connected with someone pretty quickly. My mentee has decided on a career change, only recently moving into tech. We are working through the challenges that come with this change; gaining a deeper understanding of the role and expectations and trying to balance that with what she really wants in a role. We are still early in our mentoring relationship, but I believe we are both benefiting already. I feel I am helping her to gain clarity in her new career and I enjoy the feeling of helping, guiding and supporting.”

6. Equal opportunities for those working from home 

There is a common assumption that if you’re not in the office, you may unfortunately be ‘out of sight and out of mind’ when it comes to career progression opportunities. We asked Paddle how they avoided this to ensure women (and men) who worked from home weren’t missing out. Vassia Christides, Senior Talent Partner at Paddle shared their approach:

  • Paddle have a digital first approach, which means all meetings have shifted online
  • All employees, remote or otherwise, have personal career development plans and regular one-on-ones with their manager
  • There is a learning and development budget for all employees regardless of location to spend on a class or program related to their field
  • For online networking and support there is also a female Slack channel where the women of Paddle can openly share books, articles, material and create a safe space to empower one another.

Final advice for women in tech looking for career progression

“The advice I would give to other women who want to progress in their career but are worried to ask is, give yourself time to think about what you’re enjoying most and what you’re passionate about in the professional working environment. Based on that, make a career goal, like where do you see yourself in five years? 

“Get feedback on this from your manager and colleagues. With the help of your manager, find out how your goal can be achieved in your current role. Don’t be afraid if you don’t see a development path for your goal within your department, there’s always a way to develop towards your own goal. 

“Own your development goals and bring them up frequently in your 1-1s. Also don’t fret if your goals change or shift while you’re learning, keep an open dialogue with your manager as well as your colleagues and friends and adjust if needed.” 

– Paula Recker (she/her), Seller Support Manager at Paddle

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About the Author
Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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