Celebrate Women’s History Month with a Weekly Challenge to Diversify the Tech Workforce

Challenge_Sm_editThis year, use Women’s History Month to challenge yourself to reach out, try new things and empower others. That’s the goal of CompTIA’s Advancing Women in Technology (AWIT) Community’s Women’s History Month Challenge, which we’ve outlined here as a weekly schedule unfolding over the full four weeks of March starting Monday, March 6.

“We’re challenging people to take a meaningful step in areas we’re always talking about –  mentoring, diversity and the wage gap,” said Cathy Alper, AWIT’s community manager. “We’re focused on these areas for 2017 and we’re challenging people to get talking and turn some of their ideas into reality.”

“Each week builds on the one prior; to get people’s feet wet at first and dare them to be brave later on,” Alper said. “This Women’s History Month Challenge is a way to start taking little steps toward a larger goal of building company culture that supports diversity and inclusiveness.”

The challenges are designed to be simple gestures that either start a conversation or build up the people around you — like validating someone’s suggestion in a meeting.

Each week of the Women’s History Month Challenge has a theme and a handful of activities to do each week meant to take a deeper dive into some of the themes AWIT is highlighting this year.

Here’s a breakdown of each week’s themes and some suggestions for how to get involved. “Take them literally or find a related activity that suits you,” Alper said. Take screenshots or take pictures on your challenge adventures — AWIT will post them on its Facebook page.

“We’ll be posting suggestions throughout the month, and hope people will take up the challenge and share their progress online,” she added. Use the hashtag #AWITChallenge and tag @AWIT on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Week 1 (March 6 to 10): Mentoring 

Mentoring is important to bringing bright new people into the industry. Use this week to consider how you might connect with someone and tell them the good news about technology or reflect on someone who helped you get started in tech.

  • If you’ve been a successful mentor, share your stories and tips on AWIT’s LinkedIn thread. If you’ve got questions about mentoring, reach out here.
  • Write a thank you note – or an email, or text — to someone who helped you in your career.
  • Talk to someone who you know has been a mentor and ask them how they got started.
  • Make a connection with a peer you could work with to mentor others or someone you’d like to mentor.
  • Write down your best traits as a tech worker. What is it about your story that could inspire others? If you feel like you could share your story with others, use the Speaker Resources from Dream IT and sign up to be speaker.
  • According to the research from CompTIA’s Make Tech Her Story study, 47 percent of boys have considered an IT job, double the 23 percent of girls who have done the same. Read up on the gender gap in the IT industry for a look at why mentoring young women is essential to moving the needle on diversity.
  • If you’re in the Chicago area, join AWIT at CompTIA’s Annual Member Meeting, March 21 to 23. Surround yourself with women leaders and role models and learn from one another. Join AWIT members and share stories, success and support strategies.

“This year at AMM, we’re working on building a directory of women and girls in technology organizations,” Alper said. “Join us as we discuss ways we can extend our reach and have a greater impact with representatives from potential alliance organizations.”

Week 2 (March 13 to 17): The Wage Gap

Google how the gender wake gap affects you and you might be surprised that a disparity in income between men and women has ill effects on everyone.

  • Spend a few minutes looking into salary negotiations. Ask a trusted friend how they do the salary dance, and ask to hear a story of a successful salary negotiation. Look into negotiation best practices for yourself — maybe it’s your turn to get a raise.
  • Comment on this thread on closing the gender gap.
  • Look out for the registration information for the April 9 AWIT webinar, co-sponsored by Robert Half, designed to provide facts, data, advice and practical tips on how to negotiate your technical salary at different career stages.

Week 3 (March 20 to 24): Diversity

Diverse cultures don’t happen by accident, so use this week to learn how to consciously create and nurture these ideas in your workplace.

  • Are you a doer, a leader, a team builder or a learner? Use this week to explore different work styles and how they express themselves in your world. As a leader or as a team member, how you can people’s different work styles in complementary ways?
  • Listen to the AWIT webinar Creating a Culture of Diversity, featuring Jessica Mah and Lori Jolley discussing diversity benefits and what it takes to consciously create a diverse culture.
  • Talk to a co-worker in a different career stage — someone older or younger than you — and talk about ways you can reach out and support each other.
  • Observe a meeting and consider: Who takes the leadership roles? What do you notice about the ways men and women share ideas or make objections? Where are people seated? What’s the ratio of men to women? There’s no action required here; just take mental notes.
  • Verbally support other women when they speak up at meetings.
  • Give a public shout out to a co-worker who is going the extra mile. 
  • List three ways you could make your workplace more inclusive.

Week 4 (March 27 to 31): Big Steps

Here’s the week to really step it up. Talk with co-workers about ways to improve the workplace and say a special thank you to a woman who has helped in your career.

  • Raise your visibility by speaking up during a meeting or volunteering for something you normally wouldn’t.
  • Hold an informal meeting to discuss specific strategies you can put in place, no matter what level in the organization, to support diversity and inclusiveness.
  • Brainstorm ways to give your time meaning. Would volunteering help or can you think of ways to connect your work and your interests?
  • Look for opportunities to collaborate with women you haven’t worked with before.
  • Schedule an afternoon tea with someone you don’t have much in common with and ask each other three questions about diversity in the workplace.

Throughout the month, AWIT will post challenge suggestions on its Facebook page, LinkedIn Group and Twitter accounts, which are good ways to connect virtually with other AWIT members. “The challenge is about getting people moving,” Alper said. “We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion and we’re hoping these small steps will lead to giant leaps.”

Michelle Lange is a writer and designer living in Chicago. 
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