Earlier this month, we published part one of a two-part series focusing on women in technology. In it, we discussed the alarming underrepresentation of women in STEM careers, including a deeper look at what factors might be contributing to the gender gap. In part two of this series, we address another gap in the IT world—the talent gap—and explore how IT upskilling programs that embrace diversity and inclusion could be the proverbial one-stone-two-bird power play that your organization needs to eliminate disparity on both fronts and increase profitability. 

The Business Case For Diversity, Inclusion & IT Upskilling

Diversity & Inclusion Increases Revenue

Not only are companies that exemplify diversity and inclusion better positioned to attract new talent, but they also cast a larger net in an otherwise overfished talent pool and end up with workforces that reflect a broader spectrum of perspectives, ideas, and thought processes—the likes of which almost always outperform groups that are more homogenous. 

According to the McKinsey & Company Diversity Wins Report 2020, companies with gender, ethnic, and cultural diversity have a “substantial likelihood” of outperforming competitors with less diversity. In fact, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. However, the report also cautioned that:

“Hiring diverse talent isn’t enough — it’s the workplace experience that shapes whether people remain and thrive.”

The Global Demand For Training Is On The Rise

According to the Global Knowledge 2020 IT Skills and Salary Report, over 80% of North American IT departments have skills gaps. Furthermore, the disparity has increased by 155% over the last three years and isn’t showing signs of slowing down any time soon. As technical skill demands continue to outpace available resources and education, leaders recognize that recruiting externally cannot be the sole strategy for obtaining talent with in-demand IT skills. 

Rather than battle for the same limited supply as everyone else, more organizations are looking inward and investing in corporate training and development programs to upskill employees and create the talent they need to close gaps in IT. In fact, 62% of businesses affected by changes due to COVID-19 are spending more on training in 2021.

Employees Want IT Upskilling Opportunities

Business Wire recently reported on a study revealing that 86% of employees around the globe demand new skills training from their employers. More specifically, 91% of office workers believe their employers should be more willing to invest in digital and technology skills training for their employees. The study attributes the growing desire for IT upskilling to fear of job loss and decreased productivity due to outdated skills. This study also points out the positive influence that IT upskilling opportunities can have on employee recruiting and retention.

The Female Workforce Is An Untapped Market For IT Talent

As of January 2021, women constitute almost half of the US workforce, but only 27% of STEM workers—computer and engineering occupations representing the lowest population of female workers (United States Census Bureau). In other words, a massive percentage of the female workforce has yet to realize their potential in technical roles. However, this is beginning to change. The number of female students studying Computer Science increased by 300% over the last five years. In fact, women were 7x more likely to pursue Computer Science in 2020 compared to 2015. (The Chartered Institute for IT). 

Connecting The Dots

Alignment between diversity and inclusion initiatives and IT upskilling programs can help close the IT skills gap, eliminate disparity, increase profitability, and significantly increase the likelihood of your organization outperforming competitors. 

However, even if organizations successfully recruit and train more women into IT roles, the fact remains—half of the women who go into tech leave by the time they are 35 years old (TechRepublic). In other words, without an overarching employee experience that focuses on training and retaining female employees—none of the above matters. To that end, we’ll leave you with two important pieces of parting advice:

1. Use IT Upskilling as Opportunity for Career Advancement

73% of women admit that they considered leaving their tech careers, and 20% of women actually did leave the tech space due to lack of opportunity for career advancement. IT upskilling opportunities that incorporate diversity and inclusion initiatives can increase female participation and improve female retention rates in tech-related fields by creating pathways for career advancement. 

2. Focus on Benefits That Improve Work-Life Balance

22% of women leave their careers in IT due to a lack of work-life balance (TechRepublic). Companies that invest in benefits that prioritize the unique challenges of specific employee populations see 5.5x more revenue growth, which they attribute to greater innovation, higher talent retention, and increased productivity. As discussed in part one of this series, balancing the demands of parenthood and a career in technology can be particularly challenging for women. As such, benefits such as paid leave, work flexibility, and remote IT learning opportunities should move higher up on HR’s list of employee experience priorities. 

We get it—creating a corporate IT learning environment that achieves tangible business outcomes on multiple fronts isn’t easy. In addition to involving the company’s diversity and inclusion task force, use this Essential IT Skills Training Program Planner to help identify program needs, set financial expectations, and create an IT roadmap for the future.