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Championing Women in Tech: A Call to Action for Engineering Leaders

Sriram Panyam reflects on allyship and how to build a more inclusive landscape for women in engineering and technology.
Championing Women in Tech: A Call to Action for Engineering Leaders
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I brought my daughters to work one day ― after all, who wouldn’t want to show off their workplace on a themed bring-your-family-to-work day, especially one with endless desserts! My daughters were awestruck. As a final highlight after all the fun activities, I took them to see “Daddy’s desk,” walking past a flock of engineers.

Arriving at my desk, I proudly asked, “So, what did you think?” Surabhi, my younger one, still reeling from the festivities, managed a “pretty cool.” Surprised, I asked, “That’s it?” After a long silence, she delivered the stunner, “Okay, really fun ― but… where are all the girls?”

Surabhi’s innocent question stuck with me. Though I was blinded to it, the sparsity of female engineers was apparent to a young girl. That moment was a stark reminder of the underrepresentation of women in technology.

As an engineering leader, “Where are all the girls?” is a question I want to answer. We have a responsibility to foster a culture of innovation and excellence within our organizations, but true innovation thrives on diversity, and a team lacking in gender representation simply isn’t reaching its full potential. I believe passionately in supporting women in technology, particularly women software engineers. And more importantly, not to wait for daughters in our lives to gift us with this realization!

It’s time to break down barriers and actively champion the talented women who are shaping the future of tech. Here, we’ll explore the importance of diversity and inclusion, discuss how to be a strong advocate for women in the field, and delve into ways to empower their professional development.

Diversity Is Strength: Why Women Belong in Tech

The tech industry has long been dominated by men. While progress is being made, the numbers remain stark. According to one women in tech study, women make up only 14% of the software engineering workforce. This lack of diversity not only limits the talent pool, but also hinders creativity.

Studies have shown that diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones. Women bring unique perspectives and approaches to problem-solving, leading to more innovative solutions. By actively including women in leadership roles, we can cultivate a culture of inclusivity that fosters collaboration and empowers all voices to be heard.

Building a More Inclusive Tech Landscape

Creating a truly inclusive environment requires more than just words. Here are some actionable steps engineering leaders can take:

  • Unconscious Bias Training: We all have unconscious biases. Implementing unconscious bias training for your team helps identify these biases and develop strategies to mitigate their impact during the hiring process and career development opportunities.
  • Mentorship Programs: Connecting talented women with experienced mentors, both male and female, provides guidance, support, and career roadmaps.
  • Flexible Work Arrangements: Recognize that work-life balance is crucial for everyone. Offering flexible work arrangements allows women to excel in their careers while managing personal responsibilities.
  • Sponsorship: Advocating for women during promotions and leadership opportunities is key. Become a sponsor who actively champions their talent and achievements within the organization.

Being an Advocate: Amplifying Women’s Voices

Engineering leaders are blessed with a platform. Here are some ways to use it to effectively advocate for women:

  • Highlight Achievements: Recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women on your team. Share their work with colleagues and industry peers.
  • Speak at Conferences: When presenting at conferences, include women on your panels or nominate them to speak independently ― not as tokens.
  • Promote Women in Leadership: Actively advocate for women to take on leadership roles within the organization and within industry groups. Address imposter syndrome!

Investing in Professional Development

Empowering women means providing the resources they need to thrive. Here are some ways to support professional development:

  • Skills Development Programs: Offer training programs and workshops tailored to the specific needs of your female engineers.
  • Conference Funding: Provide financial support for women to attend industry conferences and workshops for skill development and networking opportunities.
  • Internal Leadership Programs: Include women in leadership development programs, equipping them with the tools they need to reach their full potential.

Building the Future, Together

By actively promoting diversity and inclusion, advocating for women in tech, and supporting their professional development, we can make the tech industry more vibrant, welcoming, and successful. This isn’t just about checking boxes; it’s about creating a future where all engineers, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to bring their best selves, contribute their unique talents and reach their full potential.

Let’s champion the women in tech and unlock the true power of innovation. The future needs exceptional technology, and it can only be fulfilled by a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.

Author

  • Sriram Panyam

    Sriram Panyam is an engineering leader with extensive experience in developing foundational platforms and leading diverse technical teams in large-scale distributed systems, cloud engineering, and SaaS platforms. Sriram is based in Sunnyvale, Calif, with his lovely wife and three amazing daughters.

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