7 Takeaways from InnoTech Austin’s Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive Workplace for Women in Tech

img_0487At InnoTech Austin, a day long series of sessions focused on Women in Technology. It included one on one mentoring meetings and lots of talks designed to help women succeed in the technology field.

In the afternoon, Barbary Brunner, Chief Executive Officer of the Austin Technology Council, moderated a panel discussion on creating a welcoming culture and being inclusive in the workplace. The panelists included Kristin Janik, senior manager and software applications engineer at Charles Schwab, Lisa Fritsch, speaker, author, strategist and servant entrepreneur and Tracy Briscoe, senior director of enterprise information and business systems at Whole Foods Market.

Here’s seven key takeaways from that panel discussion:

AUTHENTICITY – Create an environment where every person can be their authentic self, Fritsch said. “Be who you are. Bring your values. Bring your insight.” That means women shouldn’t have to act like men to succeed in the workplace. Companies must value everyone’s skills and contributions to better recruit, train and retain women in tech, Fritsch said.

PROVIDE TRAINING – Get rid of the notion that there is a best candidate, that simply doesn’t exist, said Fritsch. “If we want to intentionally increase diversity we have to begin with presence and then we have the perfection come later,” she said. Make sure when you do recruit women or women of color that they have the tools, training and support to perform, she said.

ACKNOWLEDGE BIASES – “Each of us have to own your own bias,” Fritsch said. If you tell people they have biases, people don’t want to hear that. People must conquer that bias on their own and intentionally, she said. Create an environment where people acknowledge their own biases and then get training to deal with them in the workplace.

OUTREACH TO YOUNG WOMEN – Today, 60 percent of undergraduate degrees are earned by women but just 13 percent of those degrees are in computer science, Janik said. “We need to start younger to get girls interested in technology.” Groups like Girls in Tech, Girls Who Code and others help to encourage girls to enter Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, known as STEM, fields.

CRITICISM – Women criticizing other women in the workplace for how they dress, wear their hair and put on their makeup can lead to a hostile work environment. Women should be allowed to show up and be who they need to be to be successful, Briscoe said. Women need to make a conscious effort to lift other women up in the workplace, Fritsch said. “Find one or two other folks you can get behind and help them find their voice so they can succeed,” she said. “Don’t engage in conversations when someone is being negative about another woman. Find something good and valuable about that person and talk about something good they bring to the table. That’s something we can do to protect ourselves from being gossiped about. It also helps to embolden other women.”

ADVOCATE – “In school, you get a good grade, you get acknowledged, the workplace doesn’t work that way,” Fritsch said. Women must learn to speak out and toot their own horn. They must advocate on their own behalf and ask for what they want. It’s not good enough to just work hard and do a good job. Women must also promote themselves. Ask for more than you’re willing to accept, Briscoe said. “Ask for the next big thing and let folks know you’re willing to take it on.” Don’t be complacent. Never stop learning and growing and developing yourself, Janik said.

MENTORSHIP – Find a mentor and turn your mentors into your sponsors, Brunner said. They will advocate on your behalf and lead to career advancement.

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