Historically, the deck has been stacked heavily against females looking to pursue careers in the technology professions. Rather than waiting for someone else to reshuffle the deck and create these opportunities for women, the technology team at KPMG in the UK decided to do something about it. Taking direct aim at the gender gap in technical professions, the UK firm launched a program called ‘IT’s Her Future’. The purpose? To help level the playing field - to attract, empower and strengthen the skill sets of women in technology by offering them access to the training, networks and opportunities that can help advance their careers.
One of the primary motivators behind this program was the fact that we know that some of the best companies have more diverse teams of employees. If you want to be a truly customer centric business, you need to have teams that are going to be able to bring ‘whole mind’ thinking and different perspectives to the table. And with digital transformation consuming the impact on organizational change, now is a perfect time to infuse more teams with the skills and perspectives delivered from a diverse and inclusive team. When companies truly embrace diversity, including gender diversity, they are able to deliver transformation at a completely different level.
IT’s Her Future was developed out of the frustration among the UK team with the stereotypes that can accompany a female role in a male-dominated environment. As a result, a group of diverse colleagues were brought together to articulate clear objectives that could assist to attract, recruit, promote and retain female talent. As part of the program, every facet of the process was examined to see where improvements could be made.
One of the first jobs was to fix the broken pipeline of women coming into technology roles. To create change the entire process was examined, from the way the UK firm was marketed on its website to the length of the application process. One of the things learned was that the longer the span of time between the application and the offer, the less likely women would be to wait around. They would ultimately move onto the next opportunity. Knowing this, there was a reduction in the timeframe from a span of several months to just 1 day.
Recruitment strategies were also studied and, as part of that process, the language used to describe KPMG roles was completely revamped. Recognizing that women are more likely to thrive when they have access to support and guidance, a mentorship element was also put in place, providing them with access to a senior leader who could help them navigate and grow in their careers.
In a relatively short time, the program has successfully helped increase the rate of women coming into technical roles from 30 percent to 50 percent. This has further been reflected in the significant rise in the number of promotions of women in technology roles, with 34 percent of mentees successfully securing promotion since the program began. And since it’s been such a success, the IT’s Her Future program is being rolled out globally across the KPMG organization or KPMG member firms.
Does this mean our work is done? Not by a longshot. There’s still so much progress to be made. One of the challenges that still remains is encouraging more women into STEM courses in school – equipping the younger generation with the knowledge and tools they need to better understand how a career in technology can play out and what skills they will need to pursue it. What steps can be taken to address this? ITs Her Future is launching a Future Technology Leaders Program for secondary school aged girls providing them first hand work experience and an ongoing mentoring program from May this year.
Looking ahead, there’s much to be optimistic about. Technology is embedded in every element of our lives and across all industries and sectors. In order for businesses to succeed, they’re going to need to be agile and adopt different skillsets than they needed 20 years ago. And many of those skillsets match the innate skills that women bring to the table: collaboration, relationship building and openness to learning. These things are expected to become increasingly important over time. They’re on CEOs’ agendas. Women have an integral role to play in technology and through the IT’s Her Future campaign, KPMG firms will continue to help drive that positive change.