Should corporations care if their IT workforce lacks women? Beyond check-the-box feel-goodism, is there any ROI in dedicating resources to cultivate, recruit, mentor and promote women in technical roles?
Absolutely, says Sophie Vandebroek, CTO at Xerox, which also has a female CEO and a female CIO. Female-friendly policies give an organization access to the full range of talent available in the marketplace. "It's hard enough finding people who meet our standards -- exceptional Ph.D.s and engineers, especially U.S. citizens," she says. "Without a diverse organization, we're not going to be able to attract the best person for the job."
In addition to her CTO role, Vandebroek is president of the Xerox Innovation Group, which oversees Xerox's research centers in Europe, Asia, Canada and the U.S., including the storied Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).
"We have no problem hiring excellent people at PARC," she says with a laugh, "but how do we convince talented engineers to move to our Rochester, N.Y., facility?" Xerox's diversity initiatives are a key recruiting tool. "Nobody wants to be the only woman, or the only Hispanic, or young person, or the one gay person. They want to see others who look and act like them in the workplace."
Why hire women in IT? Computerworld editor Tracy Mayor interviews Xerox CTO Sophie Vandebroek about the ROI of a diverse workforce and its benefits to the bottom line.
Beyond making it easier to recruit other women, adding women to engineering and design teams makes those teams better able to address the needs of Xerox's customer base, which worldwide includes more women than men. Just one example: Women are more likely to be users of the company's multifunction office devices, says Vandebroek.
Overall, heterogeneous workgroups are more innovative, creative and productive than "just a bunch of people all thinking the same way" -- a crucial concern for organizations like Xerox, where innovation has a direct impact on the bottom line, says Vandebroek.
Because her company has for many years sponsored large and active caucuses that support women at Xerox, as well as subgroups for technical women and women of color, among other minorities, Vandebroek feels she does have a deep bench from which to promote future female talent. (For other likely candidates, see the companies with the highest percentages of women on Computerworld's 2012 list of 100 Best Places To Work in IT.)