How technical skill development supports women in tech

The rapid progression of technology has been awesome, but when it comes to gender parity in the job market, we’re still lagging, and the journey to equal pay for men and women is far from over.

Despite making progress, the numbers paint a bleak picture. Women in the U.S. only make up 27% of computing roles, with an even smaller 16% working as engineers. Leadership positions are scarce, with women holding less than 20% of CIO and CTO roles. Hostile work environments, limited opportunities and a lack of qualification programs all pose barriers for women, particularly women of color and those who identify as LGBTQIA+.

At Capital One, we’re tackling these disparities head-on, especially for underrepresented groups in leadership positions. By understanding the unique experiences and perspectives of women at work, we’re able to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce that truly benefits everyone.

As women, we’re driven by a passion for what we do, and by giving women and underrepresented groups the chance to define their own path, we can watch them thrive, learn and grow.-Erika Voss, Vice President, Engineering Platforms, Capital One Software

By creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to excel, we’re fostering a brighter, more equitable future for everybody.

Why does your tech organization need an upskilling strategy?

Our success is built on a foundation of innovation and transformation. In this fast-paced environment, skill development is essential to staying competitive.

By investing in the growth of our employees, we help them become more efficient, impactful, and confident in their abilities. This approach also makes them feel valued and gives them a sense of control over their career path; all qualities vital for future leaders, regardless of gender!

At Capital One, we already have this perception of the importance of developing talent, especially women and underrepresented groups.

By giving women and other underrepresented groups equal opportunities to learn new skills and grow professionally, we’re creating a more inclusive and diverse tech industry.

We’re proud of the strong female technology leaders we have at Capital One who are using cutting-edge tools to drive major projects and initiatives-Erika Voss, Vice President, Engineering Platforms, Capital One Software

Supporting women and other underrepresented people in tech via ongoing training

The global gender gap is definitely narrowing, but progress is slow. According to the World Economic Forum, we won’t see salary parity between men and women until 2155. Men continue to dominate the tech industry. The number of vice presidents, senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents occupied by men, while women drive the same structure underneath them rather than alongside them, is real.

While there aren’t any quick fixes for systemic problems company-wide education and awareness can help lay the foundations for equitable opportunities.

As organizations develop these programs and encourage participation, it’s crucial to cultivate a culture of growth that also tackles disparities and biases. This involves creating a safe and supportive environment where everyone feels valued and respected, regardless of (and including) their gender identity. By taking these steps, we can work together to create a more inclusive and diverse tech landscape.

Tech upskilling: A potential double-edged sword

Upskilling in tech has its benefits, but focusing only on skill-building doesn’t automatically create an open and innovative company culture. Companies still need to tackle systemic issues like biases in hiring and the significant gender pay gap.

The pitfalls of training events

For many women, attending training events in a male-dominated industry can be intimidating. Often, case studies or training examples don’t represent the full range of diverse identities in the workforce. In these cases, the opportunity to learn and grow can sometimes be overshadowed by imposter syndrome or feelings of exclusion.

Even with familiar faces around, women face microaggressions and stereotypes, from being talked over or interrupted to facing assumptions about their abilities or interests. These biases make it difficult to feel valued and respected.

When events are organized thoughtfully and equitably, they provide chances for women to connect with others in the industry.-Erika Voss, Vice President, Engineering Platforms, Capital One Software

The upsides of upskilling

Despite the challenges of gender disparity, offering career advancement and training resources creates opportunities. When events are organized thoughtfully and equitably, they provide chances for women to connect with others in the industry. Organizations can take steps to create an inclusive atmosphere at industry events by setting guidelines and checks to ensure teaching approaches and materials resonate with all attendees.

When everyone has access to professional development, it shows the company’s commitment to helping employees grow. This subtle cultural shift helps establish a growth mindset. Embracing risks and learning from failures is essential in the tech industry.

Upskilling for new managers

Fostering innovation and inclusiveness requires bold leadership, comprehensive action, and an empowering environment. With the right mindset, both new and seasoned managers can begin changing their companies for the better!

Leading your own growth

Building a culture of continuous learning in a tech organization starts with leaders prioritizing their own development and growth. Through leading by example, managers can better connect with their employees, appreciate the benefits of a diverse environment, and encourage all members to explore their own professional development.

Learn technical skills from other leaders

Managers can seek guidance from their own leaders to foster their growth and development. This might include finding mentors, attending leadership training programs, or requesting feedback and advice from more experienced leaders within the organization. By learning from those who have already achieved success, managers can gain valuable insights into effective leadership strategies, develop new skills, and expand their professional networks.

When addressing gender disparity and the importance of having more women in leadership positions, this becomes even more significant. More specifically, by investing in their own growth and learning from other successful individuals, women in management can drive success for their teams, opening opportunities for others to reach influential positions.

Attend tech industry events

People transitioning to leadership roles may feel disconnected from day-to-day and worry about falling behind.

To maintain technical skills without losing sight of the big picture, attending conferences or meetups can be beneficial. These events provide opportunities to hear from thought leaders, learn about new technologies and trends, network with other professionals in the industry, and discover successful policies for promoting gender equity implemented by other tech companies.

Know who you are and believe in yourself

While it might seem like cliché advice, it’s essential for anyone wanting to advance their career, especially in the tech industry. Women often face additional barriers and obstacles, making it easy to internalize these challenges. A strong sense of self and certainty about your goals and motivations can help you overcome these things.

When you become a tech leader, you spend 85% of your job on mentorship and 15% of your job on technology solutions.-Erika Voss, Vice President, Engineering Platforms, Capital One Software

Lead the growth of your team through mentorship

Mentorship goes beyond offering advice; it involves providing guidance and support that enables team members to hone their skills and reach their full potential. It encompasses setting ambitious yet attainable goals, delivering constructive feedback, and assisting people in identifying opportunities for growth and development.

Listen to your team

One critical aspect of leading the growth of a team in the tech industry is listening to people. It’s essential to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns and feedback, especially when the company’s objective is to encourage the participation of women and other underrepresented folks.

This can involve creating opportunities for employees to give input on decisions that impact their work, holding regular one-on-one meetings to discuss progress and challenges and soliciting feedback through anonymous surveys or other channels.

By practicing active listening, managers can gain valuable insights into their team’s strengths, challenges and goals, and identify markers of an inclusive and encouraging environment.

Look for opportunities to nurture curiosity around emerging technologies

The tech industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies and trends emerging regularly. Leaders can help foster a culture of curiosity and experimentation by encouraging team members to explore new ideas and take risks. When interests are aligned with productivity, employees are inherently more engaged and focused in the work, and this engagement is what drives innovation within an organization.

Organizational events focused on innovation are another great way to foster a culture of curiosity. A company-sponsored hackathon allows exploring the intersection of business innovation and technology interests. This is also the perfect environment to practice intentional inclusivity by considering the experiences of women from the moment planning starts.

Give colleagues the space to fail and succeed

Giving employees space to fail and succeed is an important part of leading the growth of a team in the tech industry. This can involve providing support and encouragement, reframing failure as an opportunity for growth and celebrating successes and milestones along the way. When employees feel like they have the freedom to take risks, they’re more likely to innovate and come up with new ideas.

Despite the stigma, failure is a natural part of the learning process—by providing guidance, leaders can help identify areas for improvement and development.

From upskilling to leadership: Supporting women in tech to drive change and growth

Supporting women in the tech industry requires a holistic approach that emphasizes equal access to training and leadership opportunities. By cultivating a culture of learning and growth, managers can empower team members to develop new skills and explore innovative technologies while fostering inclusivity.

Recognizing and addressing the unique challenges faced by women and other underrepresented groups is crucial for promoting diversity within the industry. By collectively prioritizing skills training, leadership development, and innovation, we contribute to a more equitable future where talent and innovation (not gender) are prerequisites for success.

Erika Voss, PhD, Vice President, Engineering Platforms, Capital One Software

Erika leads Engineering Platforms for Capital One Software, an enterprise B2B software business of Capital One. Erika leads a team responsible for building and expanding Capital One Software’s technology platform such as architecture, security, and DevOps. Prior to joining Capital One in 2021, Erika held leadership roles at several Fortune 250 SaaS companies, including AWS, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce, where she was responsible for various global enterprise security and compliance programs. Erika's passion is in the field of women in tech leadership roles and enjoying anything outdoors with her wife and grandkids.

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