Ep 219: Rebuilding The Staffing Industry: How to get more women in AI roles

Advancing Gender Diversity in AI and Tech Roles: A Priority for Business Growth

As companies across industries continue to embrace technological advancements, one critical aspect that demands immediate attention is the underrepresentation of women in AI and tech roles. The need to address this imbalance is not just a matter of fairness and equality; it is crucial for driving innovation, enhancing performance, and fostering a dynamic workforce. This article delves into the importance of gender diversity in AI and tech roles and provides actionable insights and strategies to advance this imperative agenda.

The Importance of Gender Diversity in AI and Tech Roles

Gender diversity in AI and tech roles is not only a moral and ethical consideration but also a strategic business imperative. Companies with diverse teams are proven to be more innovative and adaptive. For organizations aiming to stay ahead in the tech-driven marketplace, a diverse workforce is a key differentiator. Gender-balanced teams bring a range of perspectives, problem-solving approaches, and creative ideas that are essential for developing groundbreaking AI solutions and technologies. Moreover, diverse teams are better aligned to understand and cater to a global customer base, enhancing the relevance and impact of their products and services.

Challenges Women Face in AI and Tech Roles

Despite the evident benefits, several challenges hinder the representation of women in AI and tech roles. Biases and stereotypes within the industry contribute to limited opportunities for women to enter and thrive in these positions. Women face pervasive biases, lack of mentorship and support, and obstacles in career progression within tech organizations. This creates a significant gap not only in workforce diversity but also in accessing the diverse talent pool required to drive sustained innovation in AI and tech.

Strategies for Advancing Gender Diversity in AI and Tech Roles

1. Strengthening Early Education and Awareness: Empowering future generations of women in tech begins with early education. By fostering an interest in technology and AI among young girls and providing them with role models and mentors in the field, companies can help shape a more inclusive future workforce.

2. Cultivating Inclusive Workplace Cultures: Organizations need to prioritize cultivating inclusive workplace cultures. Employee resource groups and diversity and inclusion initiatives play a pivotal role in improving retention rates and supporting the career growth of women in AI and tech roles.

3. Establishing Mentorship and Support Programs: Instituting mentorship and support programs can provide women in tech with essential guidance, networking opportunities, and professional development necessary to excel in their careers.

4. Promoting Leadership and Accountability: Leadership commitment is paramount to drive change. Encouraging company leadership to set tangible goals for gender diversity, establish accountability systems, and foster a culture of respect and inclusion is indispensable.

5. Collaborating with Diverse Recruitment Partners: Partnering with diverse recruitment agencies and leveraging diverse talent networks can help companies expand their candidate pool and attract talented women to fill AI and tech roles.

6. Advocating for Continuous Learning and Development: Providing women in tech with opportunities for continuous learning, upskilling, and career advancement is vital for fostering their professional growth within the organization.

The Path Forward

The push for gender diversity in AI and tech roles is not just a matter of social equity; it directly influences business outcomes and technological innovations. By prioritizing gender diversity and actively implementing strategies to address the challenges women face in tech, companies can position themselves as leaders in innovation and inclusivity, while reinforcing their commitment to a dynamic, forward-thinking workforce.

The responsibility to drive this change falls upon business leaders, decision-makers, and HR professionals. By embracing and championing gender diversity in AI and tech roles, companies can accelerate progress toward a more inclusive, innovative, and prosperous future for the industry as a whole.

Topics Covered in This Episode

1. Getting More Women in AI Roles
2. Challenge of Gender Imbalance in AI and Tech Roles
3. Traits for Success in AI and Tech Roles
4. Advice for Women Breaking into Tech and AI Roles

Podcast Transcript

Jordan Wilson [00:00:16]:
How can we get more women in AI roles? I think it's probably easier said than done. I think we need to, you know, break some old stereotypes. But I also think we need to have these conversations on how we can, you know, really just change the way that that tech and IT roles just just work here, especially in the US. So, I'm excited to talk about that today. Don't worry. It's not it's not just me. We have a great guest that I'm excited to bring on the show. So welcome to Everyday AI.

Jordan Wilson [00:00:48]:
This is your daily livestream podcast and free daily newsletter, helping everyday people like you and me not just learn generative AI, but how we can all leverage it to to grow our companies and to grow our careers. Right? But, hey, we gotta make sure that the right people are in the right roles, and that's what today's episode is all about. So, normally, we do this coming to you live every day at 7:30 AM Central Standard Time, but that time doesn't always work out for everyone. So although we are debuting this show live, it's technically prerecorded. But don't worry. I'll be in the comments as always. So ask your questions. I'll do my best to answer.

Jordan Wilson [00:01:22]:
But don't worry. You still can get your daily dose of AI news. So make sure you go to your everydayai.com. Sign up for the free daily newsletter. We'll be recapping today's show as well as everything that's going on in the world of artificial intelligence. Don't worry. We don't miss a beat, so you won't either. Alright.

Jordan Wilson [00:01:42]:
And I tell people, I mean, on our website, your everydayai.com let me say that again slower. Your everydayai.com. Right? When I say it 50 times a day, it just starts to all become one word. But, hey, that website is literally, I think, probably the best single source of unbiased information on generative AI out there, period. More than 200 plus episodes where we dive into anything. So no matter what you wanna learn, if you wanna go back and read our old newsletters, if you wanna read about, you know, AI in career or AI in sales, AI in entrepreneurship, it's all there. So go check that out. But let's talk about how we can rebuild the staffing industry and how we can get more women in AI roles.

Jordan Wilson [00:02:26]:
I'm excited for today's conversation. So let's go ahead, get get my big head off the screen, and bring on bring on an actual expert in the field. So, here we go. Dona Fanara is the VP of Women Impact Tech. Donna, thank you so much for joining the Everyday AI Show.

Dona Fanara [00:02:42]:
Thank you, Jordan. Thank you for having me.

Jordan Wilson [00:02:44]:
Oh, absolutely. And and let's let's start off. I just can, like, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and and what you do, in your role at Women Impact Tech?

Dona Fanara [00:02:53]:
Sure. So I'm a vice president for corporate corporate partnerships. So at Women Impact Tech, we are a full staffing company, full talent solution company. In addition to that, we hold, I mean, so sorry. Typical.

Jordan Wilson [00:03:08]:
No worries.

Dona Fanara [00:03:08]:
We hold no. I'm sorry about that. We hold several events, 3 regional events, in the country. It'll be Chicago, San Francisco, and New York this year. In addition to virtual events, we also have private events that we hold at corporations. We have a membership program and we have a job board as well.

Jordan Wilson [00:03:29]:
Okay. I love it. So so even I mean, let's just get straight to the details of this of this episode and of our talk. But, you know, we call this episode rebuilding. Right? So to me, that means there's things broken. I think there's obviously a lot of things broken when it comes to, elevating women into roles. But but, Donna, I mean, can you give us a little bit, you know, from your experience, right, like, why is is is, you know, AI roles or tech roles, why are they so skewed toward men?

Dona Fanara [00:03:59]:
There's a lot of bias, for some reason or another, and this is part of our mission is something that we wanna change. Our purpose for, doing this is, 75% of men hold these technical roles in the United States. It's even less when you go global, believe it or not. Only 20% globally of women, 23 point, I think, 8% of women hold them in the US. And, it has a lot to do with bias. It has a lot to do with, I I believe men not thinking that women could really hold these roles, for a lot of different reasons. There's some major biases that are going on and stereotyping as well.

Jordan Wilson [00:04:43]:
Hey. Hey. I'm gonna go ahead and speak for all men. Men, can we stop sucking, please, and and and let let women take on these roles because I think we'll be surprised there. You know, I think some of my favorite shows on everyday AI are from women because, you know, I I think to come out and speak about AI. And and Donna, I'd love to hear, you know, your take on this. I think for whatever reason, you have to be courageous. I I I mean, Donna, what's what's your take on this? You know, you've probably worked with closely with a lot of women kind of breaking, this barrier down to take on big roles in AI and tech.

Jordan Wilson [00:05:17]:
What are some some maybe traits or characteristics, that you think, really help women succeed into getting into these roles?

Dona Fanara [00:05:24]:
Yeah. I've been very lucky to meet a lot of high level, women that that are in the tech space, and I I could see that, they're risk takers. They have a lot of confidence and, you know, they're willing to take a chance. I think that has a lot to do with it. Oh, I have my doggy here, my Luca. So sorry about that. But, yeah, they're willing to take a chance without a doubt, and they have a sense of confidence. So that's a good recommendation for a lot of women out there.

Dona Fanara [00:05:55]:
Do not give up. If you find a role that you're not really that happy in change. There's no problem with that whatsoever, and then really have you know, try to develop as much confidence, through a lot of networking, through finding a mentor possibly to help you with that confidence, that that will help as well.

Jordan Wilson [00:06:16]:
So so how long, have these you know, even the in person events, how long have these been going on?

Dona Fanara [00:06:23]:
We were doing these in person events for the last 5 years. We have them at the Convene Conference Centers in those locations in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York this year. And, we yielded about 1200 women technologists that join us at these events. We have keynote speakers in Fortune 500 companies. We have panel discussions and info sessions, so we're filled with great topics that help women in technology. Also, the networking events. So the sponsors come in, and, they're expecting to network. There's half of the women that are actively looking for positions and maybe the other half aren't, but we provide a full database to all the sponsors that do come in.

Dona Fanara [00:07:03]:
And it's a great opportunity to get insight and knowledge in the tech field along with, you know, hopefully finding a career spot that you know is a higher level than the one that they have already.

Jordan Wilson [00:07:14]:
You know, so I'm curious, has the conversation around, you know, women in AI roles, has it changed at all, you know, in the in the 5 years? Have you seen it on, like, is there positive momentum happening, or is it still just an extremely uphill battle?

Dona Fanara [00:07:31]:
You know, I'm seeing that about 16% of the women are actually leaving the industry for one reason or another, which is unfortunate. So our mission is really to keep it going and to increase it and just even the playing field with men and women within the field. Have I seen a change? You know, there's a lot of people that are women that are very excited about being in the field and and and, you know, actively looking for leadership roles within the field as well. And then there's women that, you know, very disappointed, and I I hear a lot of those sad stories about how they're being treated within their organizations. But I think a lot of corporations are making a change to change the culture for women in technology today. So that is a good thing.

Jordan Wilson [00:08:19]:
You know, maybe to someone, you know, someone in, you know, in their last couple of, you know, years or last couple of semesters of college, and they want to to break into, tech. They wanna break into AI. You know, given given your experience and and working with, you know, hundreds of women, breaking into AI roles, what's some advice that that that you would give to, you know, a young woman, you know, trying to to break into this field right now?

Dona Fanara [00:08:49]:
Yeah. I would say start a network. Try to find some membership programs if they if that's a possibility. Go on to LinkedIn, increase your network there, and try to find a mentor. There are plenty of people. We have them at our events. We have a mentor mentee session. That's fantastic.

Dona Fanara [00:09:07]:
It's one of those sessions that you can't get them apart. So we have a mentor that will give great advice to mentees. So we do, like, 5 and 1, and it's impossible to get them apart, you know, for the next session where you have to, you know, get on the microphone and say, hey. Listen. You have to break this up now. So I would suggest that, especially at that age, find a mentor in the field. If anybody wants to get in touch with me, I could try to help do that, but really increase increase your network and begin to network branch out and start making connections.

Jordan Wilson [00:09:39]:
You know, I'm gonna I'm gonna come in here with with a hot take. This isn't planned, but I was just thinking this, Donna, as you were saying that. You know what? I I think with so many AI roles now, especially, you know, when we're talking about generative AI roles, when we're talking about, you know, maybe roles, you know, working with or working at companies that produce large language models. I think one of the most important and maybe under, like, underutilized or under marketed skill sets for working in a, AI right now is communication. Right? Even when it comes to things like prompting, when it comes to things like, you know, building or or or tuning, you know, large language models. Like, good solid communication is so important and it's it's no secret men suck at communication. I think women are much better, you know, across the board of communication. Maybe, you know, with that in mind, Donna, maybe what are some specific skill sets, right, that maybe you've seen that certain companies value or just skill sets, you know, aside from, you know, networking.

Jordan Wilson [00:10:42]:
Maybe what are some skill sets specific to AI or tech roles that you can really encourage women to either, you know, hey. If you have those, make sure you're you're marketing those or to to build them. If you're looking to grow your brand on LinkedIn and who isn't, just do what I do here at Everyday AI. I use Taplio. So do you know that LinkedIn is 227% more effective at generating leads than other social media networks? You know I bring the receipts, but that is also why everyday AI has such a heavy emphasis on using LinkedIn for growth. And that is why I've been using Tapio. I've been a paid subscriber for Tapio since way before I even started the everyday AI show. So here's the basics of Tapio.

Jordan Wilson [00:11:30]:
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Jordan Wilson [00:12:02]:
I'll give you a little secret on exactly how we use Tapio to grow everyday AI on LinkedIn. So let's do this together and use Tapio for growth.

Dona Fanara [00:12:16]:
In terms of skill sets, oh my god. That that's kind of a tough one for me, and I, what do you mean by skill sets, their their their job title or their skills in terms of, you know, personal skills that they have? Give me an idea.

Jordan Wilson [00:12:33]:
Yeah. So so either yeah. We're talking, you know, maybe soft skills, like, as an example, you know, your networking, your communication, or it could be just, you know, specific skill sets related to, you know, AI roles, tech roles. I mean, you know, what are some, I guess, examples of those skill sets that can really help, you you know, women, elevate their position or elevate kind of their, you know, eligibility for more AI roles?

Dona Fanara [00:13:03]:
I'm thinking in terms of even communication, being more detailed oriented, I think that could be a good skill set, that they could develop, better communication. There's a lot of women in tech that are introverts. If they could find skills that they can make them a little bit more extroverted, that that would help without a doubt. We hear that a lot that a lot of women in tech are quiet. You know, they're more reserved, they're more introverted. I think a skill set to develop, a little bit better communication, would definitely help within the field.

Jordan Wilson [00:13:45]:
Love that. And and, you know, so I feel there's always, you know, multiple, entities, you know, involved. Right? When you are looking at, you know, a a a problem like this, you know, Donnie, you that there's biases and it's hard for women to get into tech and AI roles. And it's even maybe just as hard to to stay in there because of some of these, you know, ongoing, biases, right, right, that women have to face. You know, maybe what what roles, are are, you know, larger companies and corporations? Like, are you seeing, you know, corporations step up and to create, you know, good programs and support systems? Do you think larger corporations need to be doing more? What are your thoughts on that? And and maybe if you do have, an example or 2 of, I'm sure you're working with a lot of, big big businesses, big corporations, but maybe just walk us through what roles, you know, businesses and corporations should be playing.

Dona Fanara [00:14:43]:
There's so many AI roles within organizations. They're developing every single day. This is a market that's really going to explode without a doubt. So the ML and, the AR roles are definitely increasing. I'm finding that with a lot of different companies, every company that I'm speaking with, they're gonna be bringing on a lot of AI roles within their organizations the Fortune 500 and even the startups. I mean, there's so many startups. I wrote down a couple of them, like, you and Zeni and, Euro Unit 1 built. There's so many of these, smaller companies that are bringing on these individuals as well.

Dona Fanara [00:15:25]:
There's a lot of different ways that women could really fall into these AI and ML roles within organizations. It's not only the fortune 100 to fortune 5 100. It's companies all over the place. We're noticing that so many are increasingly a r AR roles within their organizations right now.

Jordan Wilson [00:15:43]:
So you you dropped a a a stat earlier, and I wanna go back to that and and dig in a little deeper. So, there's obviously, you know, problems, you know, probably going against women and and, you know, having them get there, you know, maybe 1st big role in AI or 1st big role in tech, but, you you know, staying there, right, as well. Could you tell us that stat one more time just about the percentage of women leaving these roles? And then maybe let's dive in a little bit deeper on on why that that might be. So what was that stat again and and let's let's talk

Dona Fanara [00:16:15]:
through that. Yeah. So, I mentioned that 16% are actually leaving, because of the biases that they're finding within organizations. So, yeah, 16%, that's a big percentage.

Jordan Wilson [00:16:27]:
It is. And is that, like, after a certain, you you know, onboarding period? Like like, what is that 16% kind of, entail? And then and then, yeah, let's let's dive in and see why.

Dona Fanara [00:16:37]:
Yeah. Yeah. I would say the first couple of years of joining a position that they're finding, maybe about 5 years in that they're not happy, and they wanna find a different type of career. So I think, you know, everything that they expected, everything that they they thought that they would learn and and be promoted into is not really happening for them. And the, you know, 16 interesting that has over 20 business units in in IT alone. And, a woman, vice president actually spoke up and says, you know what? There's too much bias here, and I'm not happy. So they're creating ERG groups to help the culture within that company, which I think is fantastic. So, that's a start of it, but there are a lot of women that are finding that there is a tremendous amount of bias within these organizations and deciding to leave.

Jordan Wilson [00:17:38]:
And and, you know, let's even talk a little bit more about these, you know, employee resource groups that that you just mentioned there. Do you think, you you know, there should be more of these, you know, especially at tech companies? Because, yeah, I like I I have to under you know, I have to understand, you know, kind of like my privilege. Right? Like, it's it's very, you know, I think much easier for me as as a guy to to be able to walk into a room and, you know, to be able to talk, attack, and for people to be like, oh, okay. Yeah. Let's give this person a platform. But I know it's not as easy for for women, and we need to change that. So, like, even with these, you know, employee resource groups, would you encourage more and more corporations to, you know, create these specifically around, you know, getting more women in AI and tech roles?

Dona Fanara [00:18:24]:
Yeah. Absolutely. Without a doubt, I think it was fantastic when I spoke to this company this morning that they are creating the CRG group, that is really helping with the culture. They're finding out the issues, and they're developing but I think it's something that, the CIO decided that he needed to do. It's also going to affect their bonuses. So all the men that are in charge, and, unfortunately, there are all men in charge of these 20 business units within this company. But now they're, they're set to a standard that they have to make a little bit of a change, before they even could get, you know, some bonus. So I think the ERGs are very, very important for the organizations because it'll help them develop a new culture within the organization.

Jordan Wilson [00:19:18]:
So so I wanna talk about that a little bit more. So maybe not that specific, you know, company there, but you said, hey. There's there's, 20 groups, and it's 20 men in charge of all of these. Right? So, let's say you were a different company because I don't want you to have to, you know, talk about a client or, you know, someone that you're working with. But, you know, if you were in charge, you know, at at a, you know, large, you know, company and let's say they had 50 groups and all 50 of them were were were men. Like, what would you do or what are the steps that if if someone's hearing this and and they're like, wow. What Donna is saying, like, that's literally what's happening, you know, with with within my organization. Right? What would you do or what specific advice would you give for, give to people to kind of rebuild what that looks like?

Dona Fanara [00:20:06]:
Well, I think women in tech Pac Tech is a great organization that has 250,000 women technologists on our database. So if they're looking to increase women or underrepresented groups within their organization, they go, could go to a diverse staffing company, where women's owned and LGBT owned as well and certified and really partner with some companies like that to get more women within their organization. It's an easy and fast way to start to do that. So I I I think that would be good advice for sure.

Jordan Wilson [00:20:40]:
That's yeah. I think that's always good to have, you know, a resource kinda like like what you said, you know, that's that's a a source that that that you all provide. But I mean, do you have any other, you know, just good practical, you know, tips for people? Like, is it something that, you know, does it start from the ground up? Is it something that you need to talk about first with, you know, an advisory board like committees. You you know, you kind of did, you you know, mention these, like, ERGs, you know, for ongoing, like, support and resources, but, it is a big problem. Right? It's it's it's a problem with the system. It's a problem with society. And I know there's no easy answer for this. Right? But, I mean, what else could, you know, would you do in this, you know, situation or what else can others do, right, aside from tapping into a group like yours?

Dona Fanara [00:21:32]:
Well, I think that HR should pay attention and find out, what's happening within their organizations, which is a great idea. They also have DE and I folks that are within their organizations that primarily focus on developing ERG groups and making sure that there's a diverse amount of people within the organization, so that's always helpful too. So I think between HR, the specific business units and then also d e and I, I think there's some nice changes that are starting to happen within organizations. They're really recognizing that there's an issue, and I think things are beginning to change, which is a fantastic thing.

Jordan Wilson [00:22:10]:
No. That's good. Yeah. And I think that's, yeah, that's a great, a great call out right there. You know? Yeah. Like HR like HR departments, I think, need to need to take a look at this and be cognizant of of, you know, representation across the board. You know, I'm so I'm I'm also wondering, Donna, like, where where do you see this? Right? So you just said that, you know, you're starting to see some positive change. Right? And I'm sure it's something that, you know, is on your mind, you know, a lot.

Jordan Wilson [00:22:37]:
But where do you see this going, you you know, in the coming months and in coming years when it comes to, you know, women being, more represented and and better highlighted in these visible roles within AI, you you know, capacities. Where do you see this going or where do you hope that it goes?

Dona Fanara [00:22:55]:
Yeah. I see a lot of nonprofit groups really, bringing this to light. So they're talking to a lot of high school students. They're really encouraging girls to get into tech and IT and engineering, which is fantastic. I also see, a lot of other groups like Latina and tech. A lot of groups like us, Women in Tech. There's so many right now, but I think as as it goes on and it develops and grows more and more and more, we'll we'll see some type of evening in the playing field between women and men. So I think it does start from the school, you know, the school age kids, that people to go volunteer and talk to them over there.

Dona Fanara [00:23:38]:
As long as we could get more of them involved in this space. I think it'll be fantastic for them to join.

Jordan Wilson [00:23:45]:
Think, yeah, that's that's a great point. You know, you can't necessarily just change it, you know, at the, you know, early career or mid career level. You you know, that's that's a great call out there, Donna, that, you know, continued support for, you you know, these earlier, you know, earlier, life programs, you you know, yeah, middle school, high school, etcetera. I think that's a great idea. So as like so we've talked about a lot here, Donna, and and as we wrap up the show, you know, maybe what's what's one takeaway that you help people hear, specifically as it pertains to getting more women involved in AI roles? What is it that, you you know, the one message that you hope people take away from today's conversation or maybe what they can do to to to build, or to be a part in in in rebuilding, this industry?

Dona Fanara [00:24:34]:
I think the the the main thing is that we have amazing, amazing women in the IT side of the business. And, as long as they stay with it, don't get discouraged, stay confident. Don't be in a fear of losing anything. Don't be afraid to move on if you're not enjoying something that you're doing, you know, today. I think that those are the little bit of takeaways that I could suggest. Stay strong. Again, develop your network, find a mentor, And I think that things will go in the absolute right direction.

Jordan Wilson [00:25:13]:
Love that. Such such great advice, just bullet pointing and recapping it all for us at the end. This is so good. Donna, thank you so much for joining the everyday AI show. We really appreciate you coming on and and sharing your insights.

Dona Fanara [00:25:28]:
Thank you, Jordan. I appreciate it so much. Thank you.

Jordan Wilson [00:25:30]:
And, hey, as a reminder, a lot of great information out there. Make sure if you haven't already, if you wanna know more about how we can get more women in AI roles, make sure you go subscribe to our newsletter at your everydayai.com. We're gonna be recapping today's conversation as well as putting some other resources that Donna, talked about as well as probably some others that we're gonna find some other great resources. So make sure you do, go do that. If you do have questions, don't worry. I'll be here in the comments. Maybe Donna will as well. So get your questions in if you have them.

Jordan Wilson [00:26:02]:
Thank you for joining us, and hope to see you back for more everyday AI. Thanks y'all.

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