Retention – A Red Flag for Women in Technology

The Problem

One of the main issues across the board with women and technology is retention once they are employed in the field. Various women within the technology field, as well as texts related to the subject, have addressed this issue. Kathryn McClintock, from Amazee Labs, noticed that women are quitting at a rate of 57%. McClintock felt this desire to leave is a result of the macho culture and work pressure that females are facing today, reiterating her belief that the “bro culture” is the root of many problems with women in technology (McClintock, 2014). Amara Keller, from Intel, echoed this belief when she discussed retention on a more personal level. She explained how she had witnessed 5 females leave Intel due to problems with the male dominated culture (Keller, 2014). Erin Pettigrew, from Gawker, used an interesting metaphor that provided a new perspective on the issue. Pettigrew started by explaining how she viewed women in tech as market challengers while men could be seen as market leaders. She then went on to compare women in technology to Google doc and men as Microsoft office. Anyone who knows computers knows that Microsoft office is far more established than Google doc in regards to popularity and features. This comparison suggests the lack of women prevents them from rising to the level of men and, furthermore, having a significant presence in the technology field (Pettigrew, 2014). Amy McDonald-Sanjideh, from Google, pondered the reasons why women leave the technology field. She concluded it has to do with either career growth, the desire for more money, seeking a career change, dealing with a difficult manager or the decision to start a family (McDonald-Sanjideh, 2014) While all of these may be valid reasons, it still leaves us with a lack of women in technology as a result. As for readings that address this issue, Maria Klawe wrote an article called Women in Computing- Where Are We Now that explains the key stages women drop out of tech and reasons why they choose to leave. By explaining the problems women face at certain stages in their life, such as college, for example, it allows those in power during these difficult stages to understand the key problems and make adjustments accordingly (Klawe & Leveson, 1995). Finally, the article entitled Technology’s Man Problem by Claire Cain Miller, discussed how half of women in STEM leave. While this research is shocking in itself, it is even more discouraging that 51% leave to do something different while 49% remain in technology (Miller, 2014). The fact that more are choosing to leave the field suggests this is a problem that needs to be resolved with urgency.

The Intentioned Goal

The most optimistic outcome arising from this video would be a overwhelmingly positive response from women within the field that results in more women feeling inclined to join technology. This is the ideal response because the video would not only increases the retention rate but it has the potential to discourage women who were considering leaving the field from going through with that decision. Thinking realistically, however, the best outcome would be the influence that multiple viewings has on the general public in regards to getting people talking about this issue. These conversations, hopefully on the news, social media by using the hashtag (#) FlagIt or even on comments under the YouTube video, will increase awareness and prompt people to bring about change.

The Solution

In deciding upon a solution to this problem of retention, once can’t help but incorporate the recent technological advances in our society. Furthermore, in addition to these advances, there has been an increased presence online that is exemplified by visual storytelling. Large technology companies such as Microsoft and Google have been latching onto this trend by releasing videos that not only promote technology, but also provide a glimpse on women within their specific company. While some of these videos have gone viral and made an impact, the results could be greater.

A solution to improving the retention rate would be for some of the most influential tech companies to unite behind this cause and make a video that promotes women and technology. This video will be aired as a commercial in addition to being uploaded on every company’s YouTube account. The ideal companies for this project would be Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter as they individually have a reliable following and are all forces to be reckoned with in the technology community. This combined effort would suggest the companies are coming together for an amazing cause rather than only being concerned with the status of their own companies. Furthermore, their willingness to take a stand on such a controversial issue will ideally make a difference and inspire women to reconsider the next time they are ready to leave the technology field. In addition, having the same message distributed from six different platforms would allow this issue to reach people multiple times, considering many people use a combination of these companies, and the numerous viewings could potentially have a positive impact on viewers.

This movement can also become a social media campaign since half of the companies participating are a form of social media. At the end of the video, #FlagIt would be displayed on the screen in red. The hope is that, once released, the hashtag will trend as a result to the video trending. FlagIt is an acronym for Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter and the hashtag will be red to symbolize a red flag. Red flags usually signify a warning of danger or a problem and this is certainly relevant in regards to this issue. While FlagIt is an acronym for the companies involved, it is more important that people realize this is not an issue to take lightly and that if action is not taken fast, the technology field is in danger.

As for the specific layout of the video, there are a few necessary parts that will ensure a successful outcome. The first being the incorporation of women in the field.   The video will begin by following a woman at Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Intel and Twitter. The footage would be edited together so even though we are following different women, it seems as if the viewer is receiving one perspective. This first part is meant to symbolize a day in the life of a women in the technology industry; therefore, it would be best to see some footage in a meeting or collaborative atmosphere to show how a woman’s opinion diversifies the workplace.

The next step is the incorporation of those in management. There would be a transition to those in higher positions in the office. Regardless if they are male or female, they can discuss the value of the women in their company and the desire for more. While the footage will be, again, edited together, it will be easy to identify which company the person is from due to their shirt or a lower graphic on the screen. This is critical because it reiterates that this video is for a greater cause, not something to promote one company in particular.

Most importantly, at the end, right when people are left wanting more and wondering how they can make a difference, #FlagIt will appear on the screen to act as an encouragement to keep the conversation going. Accompanied by the right music, this 3 minute video will allow an inside look into each of these companies that will trigger an emotional response from viewers. If successful, it not only has the potential to start a larger video campaign, but it can bring about the change that the technology industry so desperately needs.

 

Works Cited

Keller, A. (2014). Women in tech-what can you do? Personal Collection of (Amara Keller), Intel, Hillsboro, OG.

Klawe, M., & Leveson, N. (1995). Women in computing-where are we now? Communications of the ACM, 38(1), 29-35.

McClintock, K. (2014). Findings on women in tech. Personal Collection of (Kathryn McClintock), Amazee Labs, Austin, TX.

McDonald-Sandjideh, A. (2014). The tale of a texan in silicon valley. Personal Collection of (Amy McDonald-Sanjideh), Google, San Francisco, CA.

Miller, C. (April 5, 2014). Technology’s man problem. Retrieved December 6th from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html?_r=0

Pettigrew, E. (2014). Problems with women in tech. Personal Collection of (Erin Pettigrew), Gawker, New York City, NY.

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