women in information management articles

Celebrate International Women’s Day With Me … and Take Action!

By Kelle O'Neal

Today is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day is a call to action for accelerating gender parity (e.g., comparable incomes, college graduation rates and workforce participation between men and women). This is something I’m passionate about, especially gender parity in the information management industry that I’ve known and loved for more than 25 years.

On this First San Francisco Partners blog, I’ve talked about my experience as a female business owner and shared my perspectives on the growing number of women who attend our various industry conferences and the smaller number of women who present at these events.

More recently on this blog, I wrote about the future of data governance and key focus areas for 2019 — where an organization could align its governance efforts for maximum results. I covered five areas, including diversity in data teams and talked about why building a data future with women is critically important.

BALANCE FOR BETTER

This year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BalanceforBetter – Better the Balance. Better the World, emphasizes that “gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive” — and that we all can play a role in building balance every day and everywhere. And I couldn’t agree more.

When I look out into the industry, I’m encouraged by the growing diversity and more balanced representation of women across a variety of roles. Women are being promoted to — and are excelling in — senior management positions, too. Women are leading data as the Chief Data Officers (CDOs) at Mastercard and M&T Bank, the CDOs — both the Chief Digital and Chief Data Officers — of Charles Schwab and the Chief Information Officer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, among others. (On a related note, the global research firm Gartner predicts that by 2021, the CDO role will be the most gender-diverse of all technology-affiliated, C-level positions. So great to hear!)

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

BALANCE FOR BETTER: RECRUIT AND HIRE MORE WOMEN

As with many things in life, small things add up. When organizations take small actions toward greater gender balance, their collective efforts go a long way. And, surely, a diverse workforce starts at the point of recruitment.

When I think about the diverse culture we’re actively growing at FSFP, one of the aspects that’s helped us recruit and hire more women is the fact that we’re a virtual company, where everyone works from home except when they are onsite with our clients.

This flexible work environment has allowed me to hire the best consultants across the country (many of them, women), without much of a concern as to where people are geographically based. Our consultants enjoy the less-restrictive, “no more corporate cubicles” environment and are generally happier. And happy consultants mean happy clients, too.

When I look outside FSFP at the companies who are hiring and promoting women in our industry, I see initiatives of varying scopes and sizes that enable them to successfully attract female talent. And offering flexibility is just one of them.

How are you attracting women to your organization? What about your data management, data governance and IT business areas — are women joining these areas? How are your job openings worded? And are you casting a wide enough net to bring in more women and promote other types of diversity, too?

How are you attracting women to your organization? What about your data management, data governance and IT business areas — are women joining these areas? How are your job openings worded? And are you casting a wide enough net to bring in more women and promote other types of diversity, too?

When you’re looking for a candidate, I encourage you to consider a variety of skills, opening the “aperture” enough to encourage more women to respond, even if they don’t have a specific skillset.

Here’s an example of what I mean: We’re seeking to grow our Alation consulting practice and are actively recruiting new consultants to join FSFP. While we’d love to have people apply who know the Alation (data catalog) platform, we’re considering people who have experience in other areas of data-related software and client service. This allows us to cast the widest, most diverse net possible.

Debbie Madden, the co-founder and CEO of Stride Consulting and author of “Hire Women: An Agile Framework for Hiring and Retaining Women in Technology,” offers hiring advice in Inc. Magazine, encouraging businesses to:

Simplify job descriptions. Research shows that most women only apply to jobs when they meet 100 percent of the criteria, whereas men take the plunge at 60 percent. To get more women to apply, whittle down your job descriptions and eliminate any requirements that aren’t “must-haves.”

Use gender-neutral language in job descriptions. I’ve personally seen a job description see an uptick from 10 percent women applicants to 50 percent women applicants after changing only a few words. Use a language analysis tool such as Textio to analyze the words and phrases used in your job descriptions.

Include a written commitment to diversity on your website. Candidates want to see that you prioritize and take seriously the issues they care about. Make it clear that diversity and inclusion are a top priority for your company by writing a letter about the commitment you make to it and share that letter on your website.

BALANCE FOR BETTER: ENGAGE AND PROMOTE WOMEN

Once hired, are you giving women in your organization the opportunity to seek greater responsibilities and apply for other, more-challenging positions? Do they see other women in your organization in positions of leadership and influence?

I believe that organizations that actively engage and promote women throughout the life of their career have an edge over those that don’t. If your data management areas are predominantly staffed by men, you may have miles to go before being able to represent a diverse business area. But you can look to other companies as role models and model what they do — and a good start is to look at their website’s careers section to see what they say about diversity, find what will work in your company and then take some action.

Also, you could get to know these other businesses and their women leaders by finding and following their thought leadership online or meeting them at one of our industry conferences where, more and more, women who lead information management initiatives are taking the podium.

Looking outside your organization is great, but engage your female workforce internally, as well … Ultimately, the best way to truly understand what women want in your organization is to ask them!

Looking outside your organization is great, but engage your female workforce internally, as well. According to RJ Horsley, president of the software firm SpotOn Transact, in Ways to Engage Your Employees in 2019, one engagement strategy he covers is to encourage social connections among employees. He cites statistics that show that almost 90 percent of workers rank their relationship with coworkers as crucial to their job satisfaction. Women, in particular, he reports say that this as a huge factor in their engagement at work: 63 percent of women who have a best friend at work are engaged, compared to only 29 percent of women who do not have a close friend at work.

Ultimately, the best way to truly understand what women want in your organization is to ask them! You could work with your HR department to set up a women’s task force group, with a goal of better understanding what women need and value. And if a company-wide task force isn’t a possibility at this point, you could spearhead a smaller effort in your line of business, your own department or on your direct team.

BALANCE FOR BETTER: MENTOR WOMEN

Mentors can play an important role in the lives of women, too. In a recent article from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Women Need a Network of Champions, it highlighted several statistics about how women outnumber men at almost every educational level and are about half the workforce in most countries — yet:

  • Women hold just 24 percent of senior management roles.
  • Women make up a mere 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • Only one in 18 women earns a six-figure salary in the U.S. — versus one in seven men.
  • For women of color, this wage and leadership gap is even wider.
  • Progress has been slow or stagnant in the percentages of women reaching senior, top and director-level positions in all countries in which benchmarking studies have been conducted.

The article goes on to suggest that one way to ensure that organizations are making the most of their talent is to prioritize the mentoring and sponsorship of women — particularly by influential (both male and female) company leaders.

CCL’s research found that people who are mentored are better prepared for promotions and have higher success rates; stay longer with their organizations; feel more satisfied with their jobs and careers; and rate higher on employee-performance measures.

When I first started in the tech industry at Oracle, I had a wonderful mentor who helped me understand the big picture and how my small role contributed to the growth of the software behemoth. Through our one-on-one meetings and his connections and introductions, he helped me gain a perspective on the skills I was developing — and how they could be leveraged in bigger, more strategic roles within the company and, eventually, outside it. This sort of encouragement and broader perspective is important to help employees grow and develop, and of course, add more value back into the company.

BALANCE FOR BETTER: CELEBRATE WOMEN … AND WEAR PURPLE

How do you celebrate the women in your organization? In your line of business? On your team?

One way we’re doing this is by writing about the women who work for FSFP on our blog. We’re profiling them in a Women in Information Management series and plan on expanding it to feature stories about women in the broader information management industry, too.

I hope you’ll join me today (or whatever day you read this) and other women and men around the globe to collectively celebrate women, both at work and at home. And you could wear purple, the official color of International Women’s Day (IWD), too.

IWD is not just a day, it’s a year-long focus of activity and collaboration. This means it’s not too late to establish an IWD event at your organization. I encourage you to join their community, as we have. I’d love to hear of anything you’ve done to encourage #BalanceforBetter where you work. Leave a comment below for me or email us.

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