Women working in the science, engineering, and technology fields are 45% more likely than men to leave within the year, and it’s not for lack of passion or love for their jobs. It’s more because of a culture that doesn’t support their presence or growth in the STEM field.
- Women receive more critical or biased feedback than men. Almost 40% more, to be precise.
- They feel a sense of isolation, and report experiencing a lingering, exclusive boys club attitude.
- 86% women don’t have mentors who would advocate for their progress to more senior positions.
The picture is grim. In all this, Michael Harrou, Chief Technology Officer of Fairygodboss, spent a year in the company building a tech team right from scratch. His goal – to have 70% of the team as women, because Fairygodboss is a company led by women, to help women. And here’s what he learnt about women-led tech teams:
- They communicate effectively: The myth is that women-led teams are ‘catty’, and that there is a lot of gossip involved. But, Harrou found that women in his teams were dedicated listeners. Research shows that “women display more ‘warm’ body language cues. They are more likely to focus on those who are speaking by facing participants. They lean forward, smile, synchronize their movements with others, and nod their heads. These are non-verbal cues of deep listening.”
As a result, Harrou’s team was good at tackling challenges. They would test new features as a group, identify bugs, self-assign work, and then reconvene when they’ve addressed those bugs. It was a seamless, connected process.
- They collaborate better: Again, without jealousy or competition. In a Harvard Business Review article, researchers found that “when another woman was added to a company, it increased the likelihood a woman would progress from year to year by 2.5 percent.” That’s massive, given that women typically struggle to have mentors or sponsors at work. Harrou’s team displayed a commitment to have less silos in the company, which meant that the transparency quotient was high, and each team sought the input of the other before making significant product decisions.
- Such teams need compassionate leadership: Harrou noticed early on that being in the tech field prompted a strong drive in the women to prove themselves. They were passionate about their work, and it was almost personal. Which meant Harrou didn’t have to worry about managing the urgency or pace of work. But he had to relearn how to give feedback during crisis, so it didn’t land as unnecessarily harsh. Or even to make an effort and connect with his team at a personal level. Compassionate and direct leadership is what such teams need to succeed.
It is not uncommon to find women in the tech field. But it requires a conscious undoing of the current culture, to create space for feminine leadership. How would you go about doing so, in your organization?