How Women Can Better Navigate Corporate Skill Building

Most companies don't realize that their female employees are a secret weapon for your business, but your business may need to evolve education policies to support employees of all backgrounds. Here's how women can help themselves and all women in the workplace.

How Women Can Better Navigate Corporate Skill Building

Most companies don't realize that their female employees are a secret weapon for your business, but your business may need to evolve education policies to support employees of all backgrounds. Here's how women can help themselves and all women in the workplace.

Image:
To highlight the positive actions that both organizations and women can take towards greater gender skill-building equity, Learn In is collaborating with the Flatiron School  on a 4 part series of blogposts, culminating in a webinar panel event.
Read part 1 here.
Read part 3 here.

The U.S. is facing a skills shortage that will continue to disproportionately impact women if we don’t adapt. More than half of today’s workers will need entirely new jobs within this decade. Some 85 million jobs will be eliminated, and 97 million new ones created. It is also well known that women are overrepresented in the jobs to be replaced by automation, putting them at greater risk of job loss.

Three Woman Sitting on White Chair in Front of Table

Reskilling and upskilling are now considered a business imperative to address the looming skills shortage. “This reskilling imperative may offer just the opportunity we need to finally usher in meaningful change in the struggle for gender diversity,” consultants at BCG said, calling skill building a “secret weapon” for gender equity. “It will enable companies to move more women into good jobs, keep them in the workforce, and bring back those who have left.”

What happens if we do not provide these upskilling opportunities to women?

The answer is obvious. We need to adapt. And do it fast.


Overcoming Bias

Your female employees are a secret weapon for your business, but your business may need to evolve education policies to support employees of all backgrounds. Think about it.  Traditional employee development programs strongly favor male heads of households

Heck, even the AI algorithms designed to make “blind” hiring decisions are biased. In 2018 Amazon had to scrap its AI recruiting tool because it evaluated candidates based on comparisons to the resumes of previously hired employees, most of which were men. Of course.. “Algorithmic hiring brings new promises, opportunities, and risks,” the Brookings Institute said in a study of the issue. “Left unchecked, algorithms can perpetuate the same biases and discrimination present in existing hiring practices.”

Bringing more women into skill building programs is not only good for the world. It’s good for your business. Years of studying gender and ethnic diversity in corporate America by McKinsey have shown that diverse companies outperform peers by as much as 22 percent. In summary, “diversity wins.” BCG research found the same outcome--diverse teams are more innovative and profitable, declaring “The Business Imperative of Diversity.” So get started already.

Woman Sitting While Operating Macbook Pro

Two ways women can help themselves and all women in the workplace.

(1) Advocacy Gets Results

According to the career website Learning How to Become, women fall behind men in asking for what they want in the workplace. Just seven percent of women ask for raises, for example, vs. 56 percent of men. Here are some tips from the site’s Women’s Guide to Self Advocacy in the Workplace.


(2) Champion the “Skills Dialogue”

Because bias sets expectations for advancement for women and men, women may need to make the case for extra support and encouragement to enter programs, with the goal for the organization to become a balanced, diverse workforce. Survey women in your workplace along the lines of the barriers and biases that exist that block skill building, and then create a list of recommendations to support the women, here’s a few ideas to get you started:

It’s critical to establish a “skills dialogue” inside the business to influence leadership and HR. In fact, every conversation should include men as well, as that will reduce bias and lead to permanent change. Base conversations on the list of recommendations with supporting survey data, then find champions for each item (both men and women), and start to visibly track progress and results against the list. In time, the organization will see change.

Diversity Wins

If diversity wins, homogeneity loses. The reskilling imperative creates an opportunity to achieve the diversity imperative.

Man Wearing White Top in Front of Woman Wearing Blue Long-sleeved Top

Of the 2.6 million women waiting on the sidelines since Covid, 85 percent want to return to the workforce. It won’t be easy for either men or women to reset expectations for roles and roadmaps to new skills. But it is doable. Research by BCG and the World Economic Forum found that 95 percent of workers at risk of losing jobs could be reskilled for jobs that pay as much or more. 

Skill building is a business challenge. Some 87 percent of executives told McKinsey that they are already experiencing skill gaps in their businesses, but less than half had a plan to address the problem. It’s time to build one. The risk is historic--a skill shortage at a massive scale can impact businesses across industries with corresponding product shortages. The opportunity is equally historic, rebalancing an equity scale that has stubbornly resisted change, accelerating innovation and profitability, and boosting global GDP. 

TL;DR - It’s a no-brainer for your business to invest and support the women (and all underrepresented employees) in your workforce. Make changes from the top, but broadly share with every woman the essential steps to better navigate their own skill building, and shape the future “skills dialogue” inside your workplace. 


Written By:

Michelle Vock

Director of Upskilling Success Learn In



About Learn In‍‍

Learn In is the first talent-building platform designed for companies to solve every barrier that stands in the way of creating tomorrow's workforce. Organizations use Learn In to identify talent-building goals, design skill-based programs, learn together in cohorts with coaches, and access flexible financing, delivering measurable outcomes for every dollar spent on upskilling the workforce. Co-founded by the founders of Degreed, Learn In is backed by leading edtech & future-of-work investors, including GSV, Album, Firework Ventures, and Village Global, and has been covered in CNBC, USA Today, EdTechReview, EdSurge, and Techcrunch.


About Flatiron School

Flatiron School is a leader in the bootcamp industry, providing market-driven education in software engineering, cybersecurity, data science, and product design. Founded in 2012, Flatiron School has campuses online and across the country, and is frequently ranked as a top coding bootcamp by industry publications. In addition to direct-enrollment programs, Flatiron School offers customized training for universities and businesses to train employees and students in today’s most in-demand technical skills. To learn more about Flatiron School’s options for businesses, contact enterprise@flatironschool.com.