What tech managers can do about gender imbalance

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The number of data scientists and quantitative associates at banks is growing tremendously and an increasing share of that talent is female.

On the model risk management and validation team that I manage at Regions Bank, 46% of the associates are female. That’s up from 13% when I started in 2014.

My views on management have evolved over those years, and I have learned a great deal from both women and men on my team who are seeking to progress in their careers about how companies — and individual managers of data scientists — can help in that journey.

There is an opportunity for us as an industry to create an environment that better supports women in tech, a sector that has historically been dominated by men. In doing so, we can be more appealing to all, regardless of gender.

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First, listen to what associates want and do not assume you know what they want.

When I started as a manager, I imagined associates would come to me most often with requests for increased compensation. I was proved wrong year after year.

Most conversations I have with associates, both male and female, tend to be about a preference to work remotely, whether from home or a satellite office; a desire for flexible hours; options for changing roles or managers; or assistance finding a job for a spouse.

Second, as a manager, you are a talent agent for the associates on your team and for the company overall. Developing your team members for other roles in the company will not just benefit them, but also help with recruiting and retaining the best talent.

Have honest career development conversations. Be proactive in asking associates about their talents, needs, interests and goals. Learn how you can be a partner in preparation for future opportunities.

I have found each person wants different things, so truly listen. Some will ask for advice on roles that offer work/life balance or that could be done from another location.

Others will request introductions to potential mentors or need guidance on certifications. A few also might look to join a team where they are not interrupted when they speak at meetings. Every associate is different and your support has to be tailored accordingly.

Third, regularly ask your team members to assess the workplace culture. Ask for their ideas on how to improve skills development and provide more flexibility.

Empower individuals to incorporate their outside-of-work passions, such as volunteering, continuing education and community service, into work. Do your best to seek feedback from the entire team, especially in cases where women or other groups are underrepresented.

If you do not do this, those who get hired because they seem like a match on work responsibilities could end up quitting to go somewhere with a culture that feels like a better fit. Listen more to understand each associate’s vision for the team culture.

Fourth, partner with individuals to help them find a neutral and honest mentor outside of your department. This allows them to gain a broader understanding of the company and gain valuable career perspective. Understanding each person’s unique needs will help in identifying a mentor who aligns with those needs.

Big changes across an entire industry really happen one person at a time, and managers are uniquely positioned to address the diversity challenge in tech and in banking.

To become a better people manager, remember that everyone has a natural bias based on their own life experiences, recognize those biases in yourself and work to address them.

Keep in mind that developing the strongest talent is the best strategy for the success of the company and support associates taking roles in other departments. Create a culture that embraces a diverse set of needs, work styles and associate goals.

If you do not adopt this kind of flexible and inclusive management style, you will only hurt your own chances of success.

Jacob Kosoff 's BankThink post is part of our annual Women in Banking series. Others in the series include the OCC's Maryann Kennedy, the FDIC's Aleas Upton Kea, Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat and Howard Bank Chairman and CEO Mary Ann Scully.

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Diversity and equality Employee communications Employee engagement Employee benefits Employee retention Employee relations