Companies with mandated diversity training promote fewer women: 6 tips to improve

Despite inclusion efforts at large companies, representation of women in tech roles only rose 1% this year, according to an report.

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Tech companies have funneled millions of dollars into well-intentioned diversity initiatives, but female representation in tech grew only 1% this year--from 23% to 24%--according to's 2018 Top Companies for Women Technologists report, released Thursday. And companies that implement mandatory diversity programs actually promote fewer women than those that do not, the report found.

The report analyzed workforce data on technical employees from 80 major companies, including Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Among the companies that promote the highest rates of female employees, only 18% make diversity training mandatory, compared to 43% of the companies that promote fewer women, the report found.

However, this does not mean that diversity training causes fewer women to rise through the ranks, the report noted. Instead, it highlights that mandatory training is not a stand-alone solution of the lack of diversity in the tech industry, and that company culture counts for a lot. For example, companies that are failing to advance many women might be more likely to implement mandatory diversity training, hoping that it will help.

SEE: How CXOs can develop a diverse workforce (Tech Pro Research)

"It's important to understand that bad culture starts long before companies implement training," the report stated. "Mandatory training could backfire and may be insufficient to drive positive change."

The best option for companies may be to make diversity training optional, and reward those who choose to be part of improving gender diversity in the workplace, the report stated.

While the 1% growth of women in the tech workforce over last year seems small, it does represent thousands of jobs, according to the report. The overall recruitment rate of women technologists also rose about 2% over 2017, which means more women are entering companies' talent pipelines. Women in tech were also promoted at slightly higher rates than men this year (14.7% vs. 14.4%), but left companies more often than their male colleagues (6.1% vs. 5.5%), the report found.

Research shows that a more diverse workforce leads to higher revenues and more creative teams. To grow representation of women in your technical workforce, the report recommends collecting data on female technologists in your workplace, the programs and policies you have in place, and their effectiveness. Share these numbers throughout the company, and be willing to adopt new tactics to achieve diversity goals.

Here are six tips for increasing the number of women technologists at your company, according to the report:

1. Provide formal leadership development programs for women technologists, especially those at the mid-career level, to foster increased retention and advancement.

2. Offer sponsorship programs that pair women with senior-level advocates, who will use their power and influence to help them achieve their career goals.

3. Create formal policies that support flexible work time and schedules.

4. Institute monthly reviews of workplace diversity data, for ongoing accountability.

5. Provide formal, systematic, non-mandatory gender diversity training programs for people of all genders.

6. Increase diversity by seeking out women technologists during the recruitment process who are Black/African-American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Native American.

"We're encouraged by the improvements companies have made to advance and retain women at the executive level," Michelle Russell, vice president of programs at, said in a press release. "But in order to create truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environments, company leaders must focus on setting the tone and implementing policies for broader recruitment methods. They also must create opportunities and foster sponsorships to not only retain but advance diverse talent. As evidence grows for the importance of intersectionality in discourse around diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is crucial to weave diversity into company policies, processes, and decision making."

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Female representation in tech grew 1% this year, from 23% in 2017 to 24% in 2018. --, 2018
  • Companies that implement mandatory diversity programs promote fewer women than those that do not, likely due to poor company culture. --, 2018

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