NCWIT's Pacesetter Program

Making strides in workplace diversity

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Back in September 2015, our Human Resources team came to me and asked me to be our executive sponsor for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Pacesetters program. We reviewed the details together and decided that we would apply.

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Increasing our diversity at SparkFun is important to us. Any time we can have someone provide a different perspective, no matter where that comes from, we increase our ability to serve our customers. Those differences are our lifeblood. If everyone here shared only the same professional experiences, we could be missing out on the next big opportunity.

The Pacesetters program is intended to provide tools, research, mentoring and resources to organizations that want to make active, measurable improvements in diversity within their organizations. The program appeals to me, especially because it isn’t just a conversation about the issue; it helps create an action plan for success.

At the recent NCWIT Annual Summit, I got to talk to others in the Pacesetters program and found myself among large companies like Apple and Intel; smaller, fast-growing tech companies like Rackspace and SpotX; and even financial companies like JPMorgan Chase. Some of the companies in the program have been in Pacesetters for years, and are constantly reinvesting to get the most out of their work force. Getting to talk to these companies and see how their programs, efforts and targets continue to grow reminded me why we signed up in the first place: You can always be doing more.

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The SparkFun family

One of my takeaways from the NCWIT summit was a transparency around the numbers. Bringing the truth to light and understanding what needs to be done moving forward is the best way to act. Transparency is big for us here at SparkFun, so I’m going to lay out our goals and numbers and keep everyone updated as we go.

We focused on identifying which full-time roles at SparkFun are technical and found 48 technical positions, 9 of which are filled by women. At 18.75 percent, this is below the industry average and we're NOT OK with that. Our goal for the end of two years is 30 percent. We don’t have a raw number target, because that 48 could grow or shrink; our focus is to improve the ratio. Is it a major leap? No, but it is a milestone we want to hit.

One of our desired methods is to improve diversity in our applications. More applicants create more choice. We are currently in a data-gathering stage to see what percentage of our applicants for technical roles are women.

My favorite takeaway from the conference was the concept of sponsorship. Sponsorship is about action – it’s working to help identify and promote employees through advocacy and highlighting great work and contributions. This can happen at different levels. I’m excited about helping set up this kind of program here at SparkFun, and I’ll keep you posted on our steps forward with the Pacesetters!

Are you making strides in diversity across your organization? Particularly increasing the number of girls and women involved in technology? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Share your story in the Comments field below.

Comments 4 comments

  • einro / about 6 years ago / 1

    How about internship. Visit local high school consulers, which ladies have an interest. Give them a summer or semester job as they go to college. They lose their fear of tech jobs, and gossip to their friends and younger sisters to think engineering.

    • Double M / about 6 years ago / 1

      We are running a pilot internship this summer. we'll have a blog post go live from him this week. Internships get hard to manage really quick. We need to do it in a very measured way. To get a high school intern, I'm not sure if the mutual benefit exists (they aren't engineers, they can't help with SWIT, my department and they probably aren't strong enough makers for the tech support team). We'd have a hard time placing them. College grad student is the way to go, but still hard. Finding good times and meaningful short term projects presents challenges.

      If this summers pilot pans out, we can expand and formalize the program. We'll keep people posted.

    • Zio / about 6 years ago / 1

      Heck, I'm a college student and would even like an internship at SFE

      • Double M / about 6 years ago / 1

        Zio - Keep your eyes out next Spring for an update.

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