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Bridging the Tech Talent Gap: Programs to Retain, Upskill, and Advance Critical STEM Workers

The demand for skilled technical workers continues to rapidly outpace supply, leaving innovation, productivity and growth hampered across sectors. Extensive proprietary research by Gotara, amassed from over 33,000 members across 176 countries, reveals significant gaps threatening organizations globally.

Gotara’s Industry Report 2023, “The Unspoken Reality of the Gender Gap in STEM,” has identified critical gaps in technical organizations that must be addressed now. In the U.S. alone, 11.1 million STEM jobs will be required by 2031 to sustain advancement. However, the supply of qualified candidates falls dismally short, with approximately 1.2 million too few skilled workers to fill critical roles. As technical complexity increases alongside digitization, this shortage will have resounding impacts on global competitiveness and success.

Many organizations have begun to hire and train people from community colleges, people with different degrees or no degrees at all. However, a well-trained group of people are leaving STEM roles at 2x the rate of their male peers. We can make significant progress in closing the skills gap by focusing efforts on retaining women who have already been educated, trained, and are currently working in technical roles.

Women leave STEM careers at more than twice the rate of men, costing an estimated $9 billion annually in employee replacement costs for U.S. tech employers. If we can better understand the specific challenges technical women face in the workplace and implement more effective strategies to advance and retain them, we can tap into a strong talent pool to help fill the shortage of over 1 million skilled STEM workers predicted in the next decade.

Less than 10% of technical women quit to have families. The vast majority leave because of cultures of exclusion, lack of effective sponsorship, and stunted career growth opportunities force them out. By failing to provide adequate coaching and advocacy, managers inadvertently perpetuate exclusionary behaviors. Equipping managers with the tactical skills to nurture and develop talent is essential to creating inclusive cultures where women can thrive in STEM careers.

Gotara’s Business Leadership Accelerator

Gotara’s Business Leadership Accelerator for Technical Talent is spearheading the effort to close the talent gaps in STEM leadership. The program aims to close talent gaps in tech by equipping STEM women with the necessary skills, mentorship, and support to advance into leadership positions and by upskilling and coaching technical managers, who too often lack the business acumen and empathetic leadership skills to grow and retain talent. The focus on upskilling and coaching STEM women and their managers is a strategic approach to accelerating business impact while also addressing the gender gap.

The Untapped Potential of Women and Underrepresented Groups

Women and minority groups represent a vastly untapped talent pool that can help fill the widening void between technical jobs and qualified personnel.

Although more women pursue STEM degrees than ever before, females still only hold 26% of STEM jobs in the U.S. workforce. Black and Hispanic workers are similarly underrepresented, comprising just 9% and 7% of the STEM workforce respectively. 

Retaining and nurturing skilled science, technology, engineering and mathematic workers from historically marginalized groups is essential for both equity and sustaining innovation alike. However, traditional corporate initiatives have fallen drastically short. Within the first five to seven years, 40% of technical women exit roles that they once loved – but not for the reasons expected.

Gotara’s research reveals a gap between assumptions and reality. The vast majority of skilled women leave not to have families, but because cultures of exclusion, lack of effective sponsorship and stunted career growth opportunities force them out. The same holds true for technical employees from minority racial and ethnic groups.

Creating Inclusive Cultures Where All Talent Can Thrive

Empower technical employees from all backgrounds to excel, an evolution in organizational programs and culture is imperative. Companies must implement holistic initiatives that support and advance all talent into leadership pipelines.

Gotara’s extensive proprietary data underscores that unsupportive managers significantly contribute to decisions to exit technical roles. By failing to provide adequate coaching and advocacy, managers inadvertently perpetuate exclusionary behaviors. Equipping managers with the tactical skills to nurture and develop talent is essential.

Succession planning also suffers across enterprises, with less than 35% of companies prepared to seamlessly fill critical technical positions when the need arises. Failing to cultivate skilled talent exacerbates supply gaps when longstanding team members transition out of pivotal roles. Hiring external talent is good to spur innovation, however when all critical roles are filled externally, the internal talent does not feel valued and leaves.

Inclusive, Targeted Programs to Retain and Advance Technical Talent

To address these challenges, Gotara provides specialized programs designed to uplift and amplify voices. Aligned with Gotara’s vision to help every technical worker achieve their full potential, these targeted initiatives aim to:

  • Retain and grow top talent through inclusion coaching and sponsorship matching
  • Build manager capabilities in core competencies like strategic talent development, communicating vision, managing team dynamics and leading with emotional intelligence
  • Accelerate the readiness of internal candidates to step into critical technical roles

Curricula focus on building precisely the capabilities needed to excel in modern digital-first environments, from executive presence to strategic solution design. One-on-one coaching from industry veterans provides tailored guidance to technical talent and their managers alike. Participants also gain access to Gotara’s full learning platform featuring microlearning content hyper-targeted to accelerate technical careers.

By participating alongside staff in these initiatives, managers can gain first-hand empathize while building competencies to foster welcoming, high-performing teams. Ongoing access to Gotara’s confidential advice platform provides additional visibility into emerging needs, allowing for issues to be rapidly addressed before retention risk escalates.

The Ripple Effects of Empowered Technical Leaders

These targeted programs deliver proven ROI with measurable gains in as little as 8 weeks. Up to 76% of participants have their careers markedly accelerated within the first year. Manager capability leaps by 20-80%. By cultivating and preparing technical talent to take on pivotal roles, Gotara equips organizations to rapidly close talent gaps before they hamstring innovation and growth.

When women and other underrepresented groups see peers who share their identities thriving as technical leaders, it ignites inspiration and possibility. As barriers to advancement dissolve through strategic initiatives, the ripple effects catalyze increased equity and inclusion across enterprises. No longer forced to choose between loved careers and environments where they feel valued, turnover of skilled STEM workers plummets.

The outcomes underscore why increasing inclusion in technical leadership transcends social responsibility. Gotara’s customers have realized that inclusive teams drive exponentially greater innovation, creativity and financial returns compared to homogenous groups. Tapping into the full spectrum of talent and empowering critical contributors to operate at their highest capacity quickly provides organizations with a competitive edge.

Investing in Technical Leaders to Fuel Limitless Innovation

The shortage of skilled STEM workers poses one of the greatest threats to advancing innovation and human progress worldwide. However, realized through targeted programs advancing diverse talent, the possibilities remain boundless.

Gotara equips technical contributors and managers alike with precisely the capabilities needed to excel in the 21st-century digital landscape. In the process, organizations gain the talent pipelines required to rapidly prototype and scale ideas that drive step-function advancements.

With tailored learning systems designed by and for technical professionals, companies can tap into the full potential of their workforces regardless of their background. In turn, increased inclusion in leadership circles has radiating effects on attracting and engaging the next generation of technical talent.

By proactively upskilling managers and creating cultures of belonging where all talent can thrive, Gotara provides a blueprint for the future of work. One where the possibilities are only limited by access to human imagination and grit to turn visions into reality. 

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