It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in STEM-based fields. Women only comprise roughly 14% of America’s civil engineers and 19% of its software developers. Women of color, in particular, make up the smallest percentage of STEM bachelor’s degrees and science/engineering roles across the United States, at fourteen and 11.5%, respectively.
From a statistical standpoint, there is considerable work to be done to ensure more women have opportunities in tech – but the stats don’t tell the whole story. As efforts and advocacy are helping improve these numbers, many women across America are already leading the tech industry’s innovation charge.
Arizona, sometimes likened to its very own “silicon desert,” has emerged as a particular hotspot for tech companies and startups. These companies have and continue to provide inclusive environments that allow women to thrive across varied tech subsectors, from semiconductors to software. In turn, women are bringing fresh ideas and diverse attitudes to the tech workplace, helping it evolve for the better. Last year, in fact, four Arizona cities ranked in the top fifty best US cities for women in tech.
The inclusion of more women in tech is not only the right decision from an equality of opportunity standpoint – it’s the smart one. According to a report from McKinsey, companies that rank in the top quartile for gender diversity are more likely to generate higher profitability than companies lacking in gender diversity. The proof is in the pudding: the more women in the workplace, the more likely an organization grows its profit margins.
Besides profit, having women in senior management positions encourages flexible, strategic-minded thinking in response to crises and everyday events. A report from BCG states that “female board representation improves decision making and reduces the impacts of crisis on performance,” and that “diversely managed companies better withstand unanticipated changes and threats.” The more women participate in the workforce and progress up the leadership ladder, the greater the overall benefit.
Resilient Leadership Across Arizona
In Arizona, this approach to inclusion is bringing real-world impact. Drena Kusari, Vice President, General Manager, and Head of Service Network at Lyft believes that one of the many factors to her organization’s success derives from its inclusion of intelligent, results-driven women:
“Women bring a tremendous amount of strong leadership to the table, along with thoughtful decision-making, empathy, and awareness – attributes which ensure that people are taken care of and that work is executed in the right way.”
If all tech companies fostered work environments founded on diversity, where soft skills are valued alongside hard skills, more companies would see greater results. Calline Sanchez, Vice President of IBM’s Global TSS Service Planning and Premium Support, agrees:
“As [young women] move on to high school and college, besides the usual GPA, work experience, and of course technical skills, another major piece that employers are looking at is soft skills. Will you fit in at our workplace? What’s your attitude? Can you work with teams, especially global teams? Soft skills are extremely vital now and are often the reason we decide whether to hire, then possibly promote.”
Women Mentors Empower Arizona’s Next Tech Generation
In addition to bringing valuable hard and soft skills to the table, women are using their experiences and successes to mentor those they lead, further developing an inclusive and engaged workforce and generating a snowball effect of quality leadership across the state.
Arizona’s tech leaders, like Associate Vice President of Tech Parks Arizona, Carol Stewart, are championing this cause. In 2019, she started the “Women of the UA Tech Park” program, selecting an initial group of twenty-five women for their noteworthy contributions to the parks and their peers. In 2020, those twenty-five women then nominated another twenty-five of their peers. The same pattern is expected to continue into 2021 and years to come, creating a wide network of female talent and mentorship opportunities within one of Arizona’s most innovative tech ecosystems.
Building on the values of mentorship and inclusion, here at Acronis SCS we have prioritized ensuring everyone’s voices can be heard, regardless of gender or job description. According to our Product Manager Dainelle Samuel, it is critical for women to “find organizations that promote diversity and create value for them.” In turn, it is equally important “for women to invest in the organizations that have invested in them, by making diversity a priority on their own teams and not underplaying their own capabilities.”
Acronis SCS’ Software Project Manager Katerina Archangorodskaja agrees, citing the damaging myth that one must “know math and be a man to be a programmer or pursue a STEM career.” Both women encourage others starting out in tech to avoid buying into such myths while pursuing their passions. Arizona’s welcoming and innovative approach to tech diversity has helped that myth busting process immensely.
All Signs Point Onward & Upward
According to leaders like Dr. Mary Bailey, CEO of Tuscon-based Rincon Research, Arizona’s road ahead as America’s next great tech hub is bright, as long as it continues to embrace diversity:
“Technical companies bring well-paying jobs to our state and our universities can contribute to this success. We need the diversity of thought and ideas from all parts of our society, including women and underrepresented groups. The best ideas are generated from this type of diversity.”
Harkening back to its “wild west” roots, Arizona is not shy when it comes to bucking old-world ideals and norms that stand to stymie progress. This questioning of traditional beliefs – like the concept of tech as an “old boys club” that requires certain outdated criteria for success – primes Arizona to be more accepting, more inclusive, and more innovative. Rebecca Clyde, Co-founder and CEO of Phoenix-based Botco.ai, praises the “team essence” and support system that Arizona naturally provides to women in tech, especially to women of color:
“There’s a mentality, a mindset, and a willingness to help each other out, and also more openness to female leadership here. There’s no establishment that has to be uprooted. Even though I’m Latina, female, and from Central America, here that’s completely fine with everyone.”
Christine Boles, Vice President of Intel’s Internet of Things Group and General Manager of its Industrial Solutions Division, seconds Arizona growing reputation – and encouraging trajectory – as a hub of tech diversity:
“Arizona is set up for success. With its pipeline of talent, incredible universities, and diversity of talent across different genders and ethnicities, Arizona is set to grow as a tech leader and continue to attract new companies and investment.”
The Arizona tech industry’s treatment of everyone (regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender) as an equal contributor in business brings great opportunities to the state. Its continued investment in innovative startups and tech companies, as well as the inclusion of women in traditionally male-dominated industries and leadership positions, will yield dividends that position Arizona for future success.
The message is clear as day: the more women in Arizona’s tech sector, the better. Our own company’s experiences, as well as those of many of our peers in the industry, show that strong gender diversity empowers companies to boost their success, handle crises better, and bring innovative ideas and results-driven attitudes that benefit us all. STEM education opportunities are expanding, female mentorship is steadily increasing, more women are entering leadership positions, and our tech industry in growing and thriving as a result. Arizona’s continuation down this path will surely see its “silicon desert” bloom.
Visit www.aztechcouncil.org/tech-events to view all of the Council’s upcoming virtual tech networking opportunities, engaging virtual tech events and in-person tech events.