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Utah Business

The pandemic reversed progress made for women in the workforce, but it’s not too late to buck the female recession.

Tech companies are hiring, but women aren’t applying

Over the last 13 months, Silicon Slopes has seen explosive growth, even throughout the pandemic. More capital than ever before poured into the state in 2020, and 2021 is off to a strong start―the Qualtrics IPO, Divvy raising $200 million, MX raising $300 million, and the Pluralsight acquisition of $3.5 billion are just a few of the notable transactions. 

With the tech sector experiencing strong growth, we’ve seen a lot of job openings hit the market. Companies are looking for top notch talent—especially female talent―to strengthen their teams. Yet the pandemic may have created the first female recession, wiping out decades of progress for women in the workforce.

Most women who are working for a stable company aren’t in a position to look for a new job right now. They’ve spent the last year figuring out how to connect virtually with their leadership and teams, move forward on projects, constantly blend home and work life, manage childcare and remote learning, and keep a paycheck despite the ups and downs the pandemic has created.

Amidst this delicate balance, changing jobs can be difficult―and that creates a cyclical problem. More tech companies than ever need new talent and are offering high-paying jobs that would create upward mobility for many women. Yet with all the added complexity COVID-19 has created, starting a new job is just too daunting for some. Even if doing so would advance their career path long term, taking on these unknowns at such a taxing time adds a level of complexity that’s just too much right now. 

As the pandemic continues, how can both parties—tech companies and women—move forward? How can women manage everything on their plates and keep some sense of stability without sacrificing career growth? How can tech companies find the talent to move their company to the next level?

Here’s what I think: Women, find ways to grow where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity in your current company to learn additional skills or utilize available training and courses. Help with a project in an area you want to grow. Connect with a mentor virtually about skills you need to grow and how to develop them. As you stay rooted in your current company and position, sharpen your skills and expertise as much as possible.

And tech companies: get better at promoting from within. Most tech companies already have quality female employees whose talents are being underutilized, or who would like to take on additional kinds of work to learn new skills. These women are motivated to learn, already versed in your company culture and operations, require no onboarding or recruiting, and will have a much faster learning curve than a new hire. Create pathways and upward mobility for them, let them know about opportunities, and encourage them to apply. 

Finally, be flexible. Flexibility was important to women before the pandemic but now it’s even more essential. Women want to work just as hard and for just as many hours as any other employee, but with family responsibilities and COVID complexitiles, they need the option to adjust their working hours around remote learning schedules, lunch, or bedtime. 

As an experienced tech founder, I know that very few positions require working a continuous eight-hour work block. Companies that embrace this type of flexibility will get a massive return because their employees—especially women—will be able to put their full effort into their work without feeling that their job is hurting their family.

Silicon Slopes has the perfect opportunity to grow intentionally and get more women into its workforce despite the pandemic by intentionally creating pathways and upward mobility for women, building teams and culture that embrace all of the complexities women are managing, and finding creative ways to address these very real needs. None of us have faced this set of circumstances before, but through understanding and intentionality, we can build a stronger and more successful community. 

Cydni Tetro is recognized as an innovator of experience, a growth leader, technologist, STEM advocate, author, and speaker. A former tech founder, she is also a co-founder of the Women Tech Council.