Diversity & Inclusion
Entrepreneurs / Mentorship / Roundups / Women in tech

3 ways networking can help build a gender-diverse workplace

After benefits packages, mentorship may be the most important factor in workplace gender diversity, say these women in tech.

Mentorship plays a role in making workplaces more gender diverse. (Photo courtesy of Great Dames)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Women in Tech month.

If you’re serious about building a gender-diverse workplace, the hands-down most important factor to consider is family.

Family benefits, including parental leave, work from home options and schedule flexibility topped the list of the most valuable benefits among the attendees of our first-ever all-woman Technical.ly Delaware stakeholders meeting, held last week before our NET/WORK jobs fair.

But there is another building block of the workplace that is just as important: networking, including the ever-valuable mentor/mentee relationships (in whatever forms they take).

Here are some highlights on the subject from our March 20 stakeholder’s meeting:

Encourage confidence in girls

Sharon Kelly Hake, CEO of Great Dames — an organization with a mission to help women meet their professional goals — stresses the importance of mentoring youth.

We’ve consciously tried to be very inclusive with mentorships, including men and inter-generational efforts,” she said.

That includes young women still in high school.

“The perspectives those [young] women bring makes our work so much richer, and when they go out into the community they’ve had experiences where they’ve been valued,” Hake said.

Make networking accessible, not intimidating

Janelle Bowman, marketing manager for Zip Code Wilmington, used networking to boost women’s enrollment in the initially male-dominated coding boot camp program.

“When I first got to Zip Code, there were maybe two women in class of 30,” she said. “We started with Cocktails and Conversation — a casual networking, fluid, woman-focused event with a light prep session.”

Female enrollment has skyrocketed since — the current class is 60 percent women, Bowman said.

Don’t define mentoring too narrowly

The idea that mentoring has to be time consuming can be discouraging — and can upend more casual relationships that can be equally fulfilling.

“The busier you get the harder [mentoring] is to do,” said Beth Ann Ryan, deputy director at Delaware Libraries. “How do you do it?” she asked the group.

“Sometimes one good interaction is all it takes,” said Jennifer Knecht, founder of Inspiring Women in STEM, who described mentorship as “a balance between personal empowerment and corporate culture.”

Hake noted that, while it’s nice to have a long-term co-mentoring relationship, “one conversation can have a difference in someone’s life. Don’t be afraid to just do that and not feel like you’re signing up for a lifetime commitment.”

“I’ve had amazing female bosses and people in my life,” said Erica Marshall, founder of Defendant Data Solutions. “It doesn’t have to be a formal mentor-mentee relationship. I continue to look toward strong leaders in the workplace — those are the ones that last.”

Series: Women in Tech Month 2019

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