Top 10 Ways Managers Can Increase the Visibility of Technical Women
Below are ten important recommendations supervisors or managers can readily adopt to improve visibility of their employees. These recommendations are particularly useful for improving the visibility of women, as well as employees from other underrepresented groups.
- Look for key opportunities where employees can increase their visibility
- Identify and recommend women for top leadership roles
- Ensure women are visible at strategic corporate events
- Give female employees credit for their work
- Promote female employees' technical contributions; market their value and technical ability
- Ensure women have a combination of effective mentors and sponsors with organizational clout
- Look for rotational assignments that will help broaden female employees' experience, visibility, and influence
- Ensure female employees are focusing on high-value, visible work
- Encourage participation in technical conferences and membership in professional organizations
- Help women expand their networks
Recommend qualified women for these opportunities, and encourage these women to pursue such opportunities. Also, identify junior women who have the potential for more visible roles and work with them to develop the necessary experience and skills to fill such roles.
Identifying these women early and actively developing their leadership skills is vital for increasing women's representation in top leadership over the long term. Doing so also increases overall retention of female technical talent.
It is tempting to default to established networks and connections when selecting people for roles at high-profile events, but this can mean overlooking talent from underrepresented groups. Take the time to identify, recommend, and select women for visible roles as speakers, as panelists, in customer briefings, in cross-trainings, or in other roles important to your business.
You can make a difference by publicly recognizing female employees for their technical accomplishments. Research shows that women tend to give their team credit whereas men are more likely to take individual credit. In addition, women are often raised to believe that it is arrogant to "sing their own praises." This belief sometimes means women go unrecognized for important achievements.
Not only is it important to give employees credit for their work, it is important to make sure that this work is visible throughout the organization, in the right places and with the right people. This advocacy is an important part of being a sponsor.
Research shows that women with mentors and sponsors (sometimes called advocates) are much more likely to remain with a company than those without. Mentors provide advice or guidance, while sponsors advocate for an employee throughout the company. It is important that sponsors have knowledge of the organization, as well as influence and power.
Employees must be visible across different parts of the company, as well as knowledgeable about the larger company and its industry picture. Recommend and encourage women to pursue cross-company, rotational assignments that will develop and expand their strengths and talents.
Assign women to critical technical roles with high visibility. Keep track of which employees on your team get which roles. Watch for patterns where women are assigned to roles that are less visible or more endangered (e.g., first to be downsized or potential "scapegoat" roles).
Publicize opportunities for professional development. Provide time and funding for women to attend conferences and professional development sessions.
Use your own network to help women expand their networks, connecting them with influential people across the company and in the industry.
This resource was produced in partnership with the Visibility Team of NCWIT's Workforce Alliance.
See NCWIT's Resources for Retaining and Advancing Mid-career Technical Women for more information and for practical tools to implement these recommendations.