Five years ago, some of the largest tech companies released diversity reports for the first time to demonstrate needed progress. Yet we’ve made little progress. In fact, we are not even close to gender neutrality.
The IT and data center industry is a subsector where the divide is especially prevalent. According to the Bureau of Labor, women filled 36 percent of IT roles in 1991. Fast forward to 2016, when, according to Deloitte, this number declined to 25 percent. We still have a long way to go before we reach gender equality in the data center, and the recent boom of “women in tech” might be misleading.
Create Opportunities to Solve an Industry-Wide Problem
Data centers face a staffing crisis, with most finding it difficult to recruit and retain staff. At the same time, the lack of women in the data center is particularly notable compared to those in other subsectors. One-quarter of facility operators surveyed under the Uptime Institute 2019 data center report had no women at all among their design, build or operations staff, and only five percent said women represented 50 percent or more of their staff. As women, we comprise 49 percent of the world population, so a greater focus on recruiting females has the potential to alleviate the staffing crisis.
The urgent need to create more opportunities for women in the data center – including positions among the C-suite, the boardroom and middle management – starts with awareness and exposure. There is a saying: “If I can see it, I can be it.” The industry needs to invest in creating awareness campaigns to educate women on the plethora of opportunities that exist in this space.
Studies show that women will only apply for a position when they can check all the boxes, in contrast with men, who may apply for roles when they only meet a portion of the criteria. We need to create more gender-neutral job descriptions that convey the actual day-to-day job. In today’s globalized world, collaboration, teamwork, ability to multitask, and organization skills are critical success factors.
Navigate Your Own Career Journey
While there’s still plenty the industry can do to support young female professionals interested in a career in IT, there is also a significant opportunity for us to create our destiny and help change history. Here are my top recommendations for women in the data center to not only support a prosperous and fulfilling career but also pave the path for future female leaders:
- Define your “why.” Learn your business, define your why, and put a price tag on your worth. A clear sense of purpose enables you to focus on what matters most and enables you to push forward.
- Take risks. The benefit usually outweighs the risks. Success and achievements are worked toward and gained by risky behavior. If you take the shot and make it, you feel a sense of accomplishment; if you miss, you at least tried.
- Learn, learn, learn. Never pass on an opportunity to learn. Learning keeps you relevant in our ever-changing world and is the best job-security tool anyone can have.
- Build a support team. A solid stakeholder network supports progress. A support team brings new ideas, solves problems, helps build morale and creates a system to ensure that deadlines are met and high-quality work is delivered.
- Give back. Giving back can help boost your career in ways you can’t even imagine. For example, connecting with young professionals can spark new ideas, build your personal confidence, enable you to be a mentor, and expand your network.
We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution – an inflection point for everything digital, AI, ML, and other connected technologies. I encourage women to approach this transformational era as a blank canvas allowing them to define, create, and tailor their careers. Today, more than ever before in history, we have the flexibility on where, how, and why we work. It’s time to act on the endless opportunities that technology provides.
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