How Leadership Development Programs Are Advancing Women In Tech

For the first time in US history, female
representation in the workforce has reached nearly 50 percent. That’s a stark difference
from 1950, when it was less than a third. And that’s not all that has
changed: Since
1982,
women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, in recent years
by as much as 7 percent.

But this wave hasn’t yet reached the
leadership level.

Only 15.7 percent of board member seats at Fortune
500 companies were held by women in 2018. And in recent years, only 24 percent of director-level roles and 16.5 percent of the top executive positions at
S&P 500 companies were held by women. This problem is especially acute in
the science and technology fields, where female representation lags far
behind
other sectors.

According to a study in the Harvard Business Review, a host of factors—including isolation, hostile company cultures, and a lack of executive mentors and sponsors—all contribute to high dropout rates for women at around the 10-year mark of their careers. That, in turn, leads to a lack of women advancing into senior leadership roles in the science, technology, and engineering industries.

That’s why Leadership Development Programs
like the ones at Thermo Fisher Scientific are so important in
the push to help women advance in technology. Why? Well, they provide
opportunities and support that help overcome each of the factors that
contribute to a lack of women in STEM leadership roles.

To get a better sense of how they accomplish
that, we spoke to members of Thermo Fisher’s IT Leadership Development
Program—who are all at different stages in their careers.

Thermo Fisher Matches Everyone With A Mentor—And Connects
Them To Senior Leaders

“It’s not a secret to anybody that there’s not
enough women in technology,” Sarah, a two-year veteran of Thermo Fisher’s IT
Leadership Development Program, says.

This can make finding a relatable mentor a
challenge—which is a bigger deal than it might initially seem. Consider this:
Seventy-five percent of executives say that mentorship has been critical to their
career growth and development. Mentors also often serve as sponsors, helping
you secure promotions and opportunities during your time at a company.

As a member of a Thermo Fisher LDP, you’re
connected to senior leaders through events and given access to a mentor through
the company’s formal mentorship program. This has been a serious advantage to
people like Sarah, who had the confidence of knowing she had someone to both
guide her and promote her at Thermo Fisher.

This same network of mentors and leaders also
helped connect her to other women in the company—which helps to prevent the
feeling of isolation that HBR identified as one of the key “dropout” factors
for women at work.

“I’ve been lucky enough where the program
connected me with higher-up women in technology who will mentor me and teach me
about what their experiences were—as well as connect me with peers,” she says.

Networks Of Leaders And Learners Help Women Shape The Company
Culture

These networks that Sarah and her peers were
able to tap in to are both formal and informal at Thermo Fisher. One example of
a more formalized network is the Women’s Employee Resource Group, which
connects Thermo Fisher professionals from across fields for networking events,
Lunch and Learns, and more.

That was Sophia’s experience. She’s a former
Thermo Fisher intern and Class of 2019 graduate who will be returning in the
fall for Thermo Fisher’s IT LDP. “I went with my boss and my mentor. We had
lunch and listened to somebody speak,” she says.

The Women’s ERG drives conversations—like the
one Sophia and her mentor participated in—that help shape the company culture.
By speaking to the experience of women at the company in a setting that
includes both men and women, they help to create awareness and understanding
and prevent non-inclusive cultures from forming.

Learn Real Leadership Skills—From Real Leaders

This kind of networking is so effective in
large part because everyone is so willing to support the LDP members. And
that’s no accident.

“When you introduce yourself as an LDP, it’s
like, ‘Oh, okay, you’re a high potential person.’ People like to foster you and
mentor you,” explains Alexa, who graduated from the IT LDP and became a
Marketing Manager on one of Thermo Fisher’s e-commerce teams.

Regardless, something that many talented
techies struggle with is developing non-technical skills, especially those
foundational soft skills that great leaders are made of. That’s where mentors
and managers were especially helpful in the LDP, as was the case for Alexa.

“It was soft skills, she says. This serves the
dual purpose of teaching the skills required of leaders—clear communication,
setting meetings with senior leaders, etc.—while also preparing them to find
their next role after the two-year rotational program comes to a close.

“The program really focuses on networking
because that’s how you get your post-program role,” Alexa says.

“No matter which LDP you participate in, you
will have visibility throughout the company to take your next step,” she says.

This visibility makes finding your next job at
the company much more of an opportunity than a challenge. While it might sound
like a lot of pressure, that freedom to explore new departments and forge your
own path is actually one of the best parts of the rotational LDP.

“It gives you the gift of seeing if what you
think you like is actually what you like,” Sarah says. “I think one of the most
amazing things about this program is while you’re gaining this growth and
learning, it’s giving you the gift of exploration.”

Thermo Fisher’s IT Leadership Development Program
aims to address the universal factors that hold women back in the tech
industry—and the needs of each individual participant. The company works to
ensure its LDP members are able to find a mentor, learn essential technical
skills, and break into leadership roles when they graduate.

How’s that for a first job?

To learn
more about Leadership Development Programs, check out
Thermo Fisher
Scientific on WayUp
!

The post Why Leadership Development Programs Are Perfect For Advancing Women In Tech appeared first on Career Advice & Interview Tips | WayUp Guide.

Liam Berry

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