How Do You Fix a Hole in the ‘Leaky Pipeline’ and Empower Women’s Careers?

We asked three women in Austin tech what their companies are doing to help propel women further up the corporate ladder.
Written by Alton Zenon III
May 19, 2021Updated: May 21, 2021

There’s a break in the conduit that helps propel women into successful careers in tech. 

Last year, women in technology were twice as likely to be furloughed or laid off than men, and 66 percent said there was no clear path for them up the career ladder at their current employer, according to stats from Built In. Additionally, 39 percent said gender bias was the reason they were passed over for a promotion.

Unfortunately, the stats keep coming. Numbers like these make it difficult for women to enter and remain in the tech industry, a predicament known as the “leaky pipeline.” 

The good news is that there businesses in Austin tech trying to fix that pipeline and empower women to secure the tech careers they always dreamed of. They’re doing it by dedicating members of their people teams to spearhead partnerships with organizations like Women Who Code, and by promoting women and offering them professional development trainings to level up, among many other tactics. 

But don’t take our word for it. Read on to learn how three Austin companies are leveling the playing field for women.

 

Tarsha McCormick
VP of DEI

Tarsha McCormick, VP of DEI at WordPress hosting solution WP Engine, said the company has been solidifying its 2016 commitment to President Obama’s Equal Pay for Equal Work pledge. How? WP’s cross-functional, women-driven employee resource group (ERG). 

 

How WP Engine’s culture is helping women thrive: “WP Engine sponsors our ERG ‘ROAR,’ whose mission is to provide a safe and open environment for employees to promote, educate and advocate for women across the company. ROAR empowers women to advocate for themselves and others in their personal and professional lives and helps put women in positions where they have historically been viewed as unfavorable or ‘less than’ in the tech industry. ROAR accomplishes this goal through employee-led panels, workshops, social media campaigns, articles, charity fundraising, mentorship and a safe space for discussion.”

 

Perks that help retain women: “In 2016, WP Engine was one of 50 companies that signed the White House pledge of Equal Pay for Equal Work under the Obama administration, a pledge we have continued to uphold and strengthen.

“Our virtual-first philosophy also allows employees to have flexibility in how and where they work, like from one of our hubs once a month or maybe while visiting a loved one in another state. Additionally, we support and encourage a healthy work-life balance by offering unlimited vacation and paid leave for parents and caregivers. This year, we offered wellness-driven benefits like a free subscription to the Calm App, a $100 monthly wellness benefit and creating ERGs for caregivers, wellness and sustainability.” 
 

WP Engine was one of 50 companies that signed the White House pledge of Equal Pay for Equal Work.”


Initiatives that support continued growth for women in tech: “In addition to offering internal learning opportunities focused on ‘women transforming tech,’ we sponsor women to attend and speak at conferences that support their growth. Career-oriented programs like our ‘Associate Product Manager Program’ also help create a pathway for team members to enter the fast-growing field of product management.

“Externally, we partner with local organizations like Code2College to provide internships to college students seeking careers as software engineers and support the growth and success of women in tech.”

 

Danielle Bechtel
senior product marketing manager

“When I joined, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were other women, at every level, in the engineering department,” said Danielle Bechtel, A Cloud Guru’s senior product marketing manager. The career move made sense for Bechtel — she said the online learning platform takes steps to ensure it gives women plenty of opportunities to prosper. 

 

How A Cloud Guru’s culture is helping women thrive: “We audit our pay equity, career progression, hiring practices and policies to ensure nurture a culture of belonging. Creating a supportive, inclusive culture means assessing everything from the gender and ethnic makeup of each department to the representation of women and people of color in our consumer product. 

“We put a lot of work into the engineering competency framework that we use to evaluate candidates, grow employees toward promotions and build career development plans. The competency framework aims to make sure that we are objectively assessing candidates and that people are being offered promotions based on their competencies and contribution, and that everybody is being assessed equally.”

 

Perks that help retain women: “Our flexible work options helped tremendously with the added pressure of having to homeschool children during the COVID-19 lockdown. We also offer 12 weeks of parental leave for new and adopting parents and cover up to $10,000 of eligible adoption expenses.” 
 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were other women, at every level, in the engineering department.”


Initiatives that support continued growth for women in tech: “Our women in tech diversity and inclusion group is focused on tackling new initiatives to expand inclusion inside ACG, as well as open doors externally through community partners. We have a team within our people and culture department whose sole focus is to partner with orgs like Level Up in Tech and Women Who Code to multiply our shared impact. We also provide free access to our cloud education platform for communities in need and have given hundreds of free ACG scholarships to women hoping to start a new career in tech or advance their existing one.

“Finally, are updating our ‘Idea Hours’ — two hours all employees set aside each week for learning development — to encourage pro bono mentoring and coaching in the community.”

 

Selena Castaneda
People Operations Generalist

More than 50 percent of leaders at the AI-driven healthtech platform One Drop are women, according to People Operations Generalist Selena Castaneda. But the company doesn’t just promote them: monthly manager meetings and a professional development stipend help them evolve in their roles.

 

How One Drop’s culture is helping women thrive: “In order to internally support our women and women of color, we’ve been implementing DEI initiatives company-wide like launching ERGs to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Black, Latinx, LGBTQIA+ and women, as well their allies. 

“Additionally, over half of our leadership positions are held by women. And managers gather monthly to meet and share best practices, roadblocks and discuss development opportunities for themselves and their new hires.”
 

Over half of our leadership positions are held by women. And managers gather monthly to meet and share best practices.”

 

Perks that help retain women: “We offer unlimited vacation days in an effort to accommodate the lives of our employees, encourage work-life balance and prioritize mental health. Our paid family leave policy and 529 college savings plan assists working caretakers. And a monthly employee wellness stipend promotes their individual health initiatives, giving them the autonomy to choose the health and wellness initiatives that are most relevant to them and their needs.”

 

Initiatives that support continued growth for women in tech: “We offer a yearly professional development budget that gives employees the autonomy to choose the area or skill set they would like to develop. Our ERGs are an additional area of support for the women of One Drop, with frequent meetings, continuous support and information in our Slack channels. We also have various groups to acknowledge the intersectionality of our team.”

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