What Real Change for Women in Tech Looks Like at 4 Colorado Companies

by Alton Zenon III
October 18, 2019

Everyone deserves to be able to express their thoughts, pursue their interests, and grow their career, but for many women in tech, these fundamental professional rights were not always fully extended.

Luckily, as Bob Dylan sang in 1964, “The times they are a-changin’.”

Many tech companies are working hard to give women the fairness they deserve in the workplace and the agency to thrive in leadership roles they might not have previously had access to. We spoke to four Colorado companies about their efforts to level the playing field for women through strategies like eliminating antiquated gender roles, developing mentorship programs, investing in the futures of girls in tech, and so much more. 

 

Women at Zayo in group photo
zayo

Vice President of People and Culture Liz Rolander said Zayo works hard to get women through its doors, but the support it lends to them does not stop there. The international bandwidth and connectivity service provider shows continuous support to its women team members through practices like equal pay, a mentorship program and a support group with chapters across its worldwide offices.

 

What are some examples of issues facing women in tech that your company is addressing?

A key issue for women in tech is underrepresentation at all levels of the organization. Zayo is addressing this issue through a purposeful focus on recruiting, promotion and retention of women. Currently, our Colorado workforce of 1,100 is approximately 40 percent women. We recruit strategically, reaching out to women and diverse candidates at Colorado universities and sponsoring programs geared to women and underrepresented minorities. Our community engagement efforts are focused on cultivating a pipeline of diverse candidates interested in STEM classes and careers, with the goal of helping girls and boys visualize what a career in tech might be like.

Zayo has also taken significant steps to achieve pay equity, using best practices established in our customer service and IT organization, which has nearly 50 percent women and has already achieved pay parity. Our efforts have involved analyzing compensation across all of our job titles and where gender-based discrepancies exist, resolving those discrepancies. Because of this effort and others, the majority of promotions over the past eight quarters have been women. We also work hard to retain women by creating an inclusive workplace, which provides opportunities to make meaningful contributions at every level, from student intern to Zayo director. Employees also cite our leadership and development initiatives and benefits, including paid maternity and paternity leave, as important contributors to job satisfaction and intent to stay.

We also recently held an inaugural women’s networking event for the community, which included a reception and informal panel of Zayo’s women leaders.”

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

Zayo has an internal grassroots resource group called [email protected], where women provide support, mentorship and development for each other. Founded about five years ago by a female executive, the group now has 14 different local chapters across Zayo’s global footprint, all coordinated by employee volunteers. We also have a structured mentorship program, which matches employees who are seeking guidance with experienced mentors. My team provides recommendations for a structured, six-month process so expectations on both sides can be met. 

We also recently held an inaugural women’s networking event for the community, which included a reception and informal panel of Zayo’s women leaders. The event attracted more than 100 women who were interested in learning more about Zayo. We’re definitely planning to host additional events like these.

 

Udemy team members talking in conference room
udemy

Manager of Corporate Sales Annette Kasper said the goals that Udemy sets for fair hiring and promotions are explicitly defined, but the company wants to exceed rather than meet them. Kasper said the online marketplace for teachings wants to put women and other diverse individuals in internal roles everywhere they can.

 

What are some examples of issues facing women in tech that your company is addressing?

As a woman of color in technology sales, the pervasive issue I see throughout the tech industry is a lack of diverse representation. There are numerous studies showing how more diverse teams enjoy better returns on investment, are more productive and experience less turnover. 

We understand the value of diverse teams and set measurable metrics to ensure we have representation across every function, department and level. We don’t look at these metrics as goals we want to hit, but rather numbers that we want to exceed. We aim to be leaders in workforce diversity and I’m proud to say that within our Denver office, all of our sales leaders are female.

We understand that our global customers represent all ages and walks of life and we need to mirror them internally in order to properly serve them.”

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

We’re dedicated to fostering a culture where everyone feels like they belong and their contributions are valued. That’s why we created UBelong, an internal program that highlights the efforts we make to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion. We understand that our global customers represent all ages and walks of life and we need to mirror them internally in order to properly serve them.

Specifically for our sales organization, we’re a partner of Women in Sales Everywhere. Udemy believes in providing a safe place for women to discuss concerns in the workplace, find mentorship, and share best practices on creating an inclusive environment on sales teams. WISE has been an incredible partner for us as we work to support women in their careers. 

 

Women at FirstBank in group photo
FirstBank

As a financial institution, FirstBank helps consumers invest in their futures. And as a supporter of women in tech, the company invests in the futures of the girls interested in STEM careers by participating in volunteer events in the community, according to IT Manager Sharon Yee. She said the company also puts resources into advancing the careers of its current women team members through dedicated mentorship. 

 

What are some examples of issues facing women in tech that your company is addressing?

More than half of women in tech leave the industry by the mid-point of their career, which is more than double the rate of men, according to a previous Center for Work-Life Policy study. Just over two years ago, we founded the women in technology employee resource group here to take a proactive approach in recognizing and combating the issues facing women in this industry. With immense support from our most senior leadership, we implemented a mentorship program, which is open to all employees and provides mentors who are successful women in technology. The group is also focused on supporting the future of STEM careers by volunteering in the community with organizations like Girls on the Run and SheTech.

We implemented a mentorship program, which is open to all employees and provides mentors who are successful women in technology.”

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

From the small details, like our mother’s room to implementing gender-neutral job descriptions to help overcome potential barriers to applicants, we are continually focused on creating new efforts and initiatives to support women throughout the company. We recently spun up another employee resource group, Women in Banking, to focus on supporting the growth and needs of our women in leadership roles. We also have a dedicated career navigator to engage employees throughout their journey here, beginning with a comprehensive onboarding program. As employees progress in their career, skillset development plans are used to guide employees through transitions and professional growth.

 

Zestful team members on a couch
zestful

In AMC’s hit show “Mad Men”, Peggy Olson is introduced in the series as a secretary in the 1960s — running errands and doing tasks stereotypical for the gender role at the time. By the end of the seven-season series, she’s a head copywriter and a team leader. Zestful’s Head of People Success Ashlee Cloud shared how the perks company ensures that none of its women employees ever feel like season-one Peggy, spreading admin tasks equitably among the whole team.

 

What are some examples of issues facing women in tech that your company is addressing?

Being spoken over and interrupted in meetings happens daily in lots of organizations; most women tend to recognize it right away, while some men don’t. And it’s easily one of the most important things our team can be aware of. What I appreciate about our team is that when someone brought this up, there was an immediate change. People became more aware of it and have started to catch themselves or apologize. I love how responsive the team is and how the men genuinely care about creating an empowering environment for women.

Another issue is falling into antiquated gender roles. Something I really appreciate about our CEO Mat Vogels and the rest of the men in our office is that they don’t delegate the “traditional”, more administrative tasks that used to fall to women — like ordering snacks, cleaning up the office and booking travel — to the women in our office. This shows us that they don’t assume the women on our team should do these things and don’t want us to fall into doing it, and that’s awesome. 

I love how responsive the team is and how the men genuinely care about creating an empowering environment for women.”

 

What other initiatives does your company have in place to support women in your company?

We have some forward-thinking initiatives in place including having women in leadership positions, educating ourselves on creating an inclusive and supportive environment, reading books like J. A. Davids’ “Don’t Tell D*ck Jokes at Work”, flexible work schedules, fair and equal pay, and 100 percent paid health benefits for our employees and their dependents.

As we continue to grow, we always encourage our new teammates to help us with initiatives they’re passionate about, because creating impactful things is what we’re passionate about.

 

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