When it comes to inclusivity work, 2021 saw some success for DC in making space for women in the tech field.
In 2021, Arlington and DC clinched the #1 and #2 spots as the best cities for women in tech from SmartAsset’s annual report. The DMV saw the expansion of national workforce programs like Gender Equality in Tech Cities into the area, and women-specific initiatives like a training course for women from education nonprofit Per Scholas, not to mention the launch of workplace culture initiatives like the launch of a national Black Women’s Health Imperative.
Even with these steps forward, there’s still plenty of work to be done to create a more inclusive workplace. Zeanique Barber, digital transformation strategy director at MTX, a global IT firm with a local office, noted that the rise of the tech economy calls for continued efforts in workforce equity.
“We are at the precipice of innovation on all levels and with this innovation, comes more job opportunities in the technology field,” Barber told Technical.ly. “However, women in technology for decades still only hold less than 30% of tech jobs.”
The work to come in the new year, Barber thinks, will involve organizations uncovering some of the job-related data that they haven’t been tracking very closely, like applicant and outreach numbers. If they’re really looking to make a change and boost equality, she said, it’s necessary to show the data to back it up. It also follows the trend of national pushes, she said, noting a data-driven White House and a ruling from the Securities and Exchange Commission that requires companies have at least one woman and one person from an underrepresented group on their board to list on the Nasdaq.
To keep up, tech companies and organizations will need the data to examine recruiting efforts, and potential gaps in workplace culture.
“What I think for 2022 is that women will be more vocal about toxic workplace behaviors,” Barber said. “We’ll see more women in leadership positions as a result of that data that’s going to be uncovered, looking at the women that different organizations are hiring and then also retaining and then also putting into leadership positions.”
In the current market, though, there are still some missteps that are keeping women out. She pointed to the lack of educational resources for women (last month, Per Scholas told us that only 30% of its students in the DMV are women). But, she said, as a whole, women aren’t being reached by tech recruiters, which she hopes can change in the new year.
For women looking to move into tech, Barber recommends utilizing social media, specifically Linkedin, which she said is a huge way for women to advocate for themselves. She views it as a space for women to articulate what they’re looking for and connect with others, especially those looking to expand inclusivity in their company makeup.
“If you’re a woman and you’re interested in tech careers, make sure that your Linkedin profiles advocates on your behalf,” Barber said. “Look at organizations where you’re interested in working, understand what it is that they’re looking for and don’t be afraid to reach out to the recruiters or different people that you see putting out content that aligns with how you’d like to see yourself as a professional and going from there.”
Once they’ve landed the initial correspondence, Barber encouraged women to ask a lot of questions about the company’s makeup and culture, and what kind of efforts or commitments they have to increase equity in the workplace. It won’t be hard, she said, to decipher which companies are making true efforts to ensure their demographics reflect the communities they’re doing work within and offer inclusive working dynamics and which have mostly empty promises.
But for some women, a full-time position in tech still isn’t the most appealing, Barber said, noting that women especially left careers during the Great Resignation to be caretakers at home. Yet, another trend of the pandemic is the embrace of flexible work arrangements, and that could bring an uptick in entrepreneurship. Especially considering that higher education is a requirement for women in many full-time tech positions, she predicts the overall rise in entrepreneurship combined with the strong venture capital dollars in the area will mean a boost of women founders.
“When you look at the statistics, DC is one of the better markets for women in tech and better markets for women in entrepreneurship,” Barber said. “…I think that there will still be, in the DC market, a strong place for women to be successful in tech careers and entrepreneurship and I see that increasing incrementally over the next year for the DC market.”-30-