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Closing the gender gap requires a holistic approach

One of the fundamental beliefs behind GLAM is that closing the gender gap in tech requires a holistic approach. This is why we address much more than just computer coding in the program, and this is also why we introduce girls to these concepts at a young age. A simplistic or one-off approach is not going to affect real change, at least not long term.

This line of thinking was recently validated by a study that the Wharton People Analytics Initiative implemented among more than 10,000 salaried employees at a global organization. The study measured how attitudes and behaviors about diversity (including gender bias and “general” bias that encompassed gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and obesity) were affected by a one-off online diversity training program.

While post-training surveys indicated that some subgroups of employees portrayed improved attitudes about diversity, there was little behavioral impact noted, except for among employees who were already strongly supportive of women and minorities before the training (which are not the ones that policies aim to influence).The researchers concluded that “The results suggest that the one-off diversity trainings that are commonplace in organizations are unlikely to be stand-alone solutions for promoting equality in the workplace, particularly given their limited efficacy among those groups whose behaviors policymakers are most eager to influence.”

While diversity training in the workplace is a noble initiative, in isolation it’s too little, too late. Addressing the gender gap has to start early in life, and it needs to address the root causes of the issue, rather than narrowly focused on raising consciousness about the problem.

We hold that three main areas need to be addressed to close the gender gap. The first is skillset, the second is confidence to take on big things (which includes leadership skills), and the third is being part of a supportive network. We’re tackling all three through GLAM (Girls Leadership Academy Meetup), a free summer computer and leadership camp for girls ages 8-12.

The GLAM program includes computer science and coding to give girls a taste of technology and show them that there is no reason to be intimidated. Hopefully, many of them will later decide to pursue careers in tech, but even if they don’t, less face it: technology is a part of everything we do. Understanding technology will help them no matter which field they choose to pursue.

For the courage to dream big and aim for senior leadership, GLAM offers a number of confidence-building and business skills sessions, so participants can articulate their goals and map out a plan to get there.

Mentorship and being part of a supportive network is another important factor in career advancement. GLAM addresses this, as well. The girls are exposed to some amazing role models at GLAM. We are honored to have had some incredible women tech leaders speaking at our events, including Paula Tolliver, CIO of Intel; Lori Garver, General Manager of the Air Line Pilots Association and former Deputy Administrator who led President Obama’s transition team for NASA; Carolyn Herzog, Senior Vice-President at Arm; Stephanie Carullo, COO of Box, many other heavy hitters who are making a huge difference in the world and inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders.

By giving girls this experience at an impressionable age, we hope to show them how to leverage all of the resources available to them throughout their life and career to not only carve out a place for themselves in the STEM fields, but also to persevere and aim for the top. In the long run, we believe this will support workplace diversity more than any isolated corporate diversity training program could do.

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