As Return Path grows larger as a company, some imbalances that went unnoticed for years are becoming more obvious. One of those things is a lower percentage of women in engineering. We have a handful of incredibly talented women on our engineering team, however they probably represent only 10-15% of the total staff. And while it’s true that there are fewer female engineers in the talent pool, we felt we could and should do more to cultivate them – after all, we are a great place to work in general, and in particular, we have a number of formal and informal policies that are incredibly flexible and family friendly. Perhaps more importantly, research tells us that diverse perspectives (not just gender) lead to increased innovation, better problem solving and stronger teams. All are critical skills in a highly collaborative organization like RP! I won’t go into a full analysis of the broad and complex topic of diversity here however suffice it to say it’s on our radar as an area where we can do better and are committed to removing obstacles and providing support.
Return Path’s long-time friend and investor Brad Feld has been chairman of an organization called the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) for many years and has posted about it regularly (see his tag cloud here). As we learned more about the organization’s mission and successes over the years, we decided to get to know them better, a process which led to our new partnership. NCWIT is a coalition of over 250 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase the participation of girls and women in computing and IT. NCWIT believes that inspiring more women to choose careers in IT is a compelling issue of innovation, competitiveness, and workforce sustainability. In a global economy, gender diversity in IT means a larger and more competitive workforce; in a world dependent on innovation, it means the ability to design technology that is as broad and creative as the people it serves.
In short, NCWIT’s goals are extremely compatible with Return Path’s goals and culture. Our partnership focuses on two exciting initiatives to further the advancement of women in technology:
1. Workforce Alliance: volunteers from Return path will support projects which work to recruit, retain and advance women into creative technical roles. The Workforce Alliance leads NCWIT’s efforts in corporate organizational reform
2. Sponsorship of the first-ever NCWIT/Return Path Student Seed Fund. Groups of technical women at universities across the US will submit proposals to advance the goals of women in computing.
We’re excited about our new association with NCWIT, and we hope it is one of many things we do at the company to celebrate the differences between men and women and encourage as broad and diverse a workforce as possible.