Just How Effective Are Affinity Groups for the Retention and Advancement of Women in the IT Workforce?

Principal Investigator: Hala Annabi, Ph.D., Associate Professor, UW Information School

Graduate Student: Mina Tari, Doctoral Student, UW Information School

There has been a resurgence of interest in Affinity Groups (AGs) in the last few years that a Mercer Global Equality report attributes to the interest of millennials in workplace networking. Women Affinity Groups (WAGs) are the most prevalent Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) intervention method utilized in the Information Technology (IT) industry. Ninety three percent of organizations surveyed in the Mercer Global Equality report indicated having WAGs and relying on them to carry out D&I goals. Like many other D&I interventions, the effectiveness of WAGs has not been studied. The goal of the proposed study is to understand if and how WAGs used as key D&I interventions mitigate and eradicate barriers that women experience in IT. More specifically, we propose an in-depth investigation of the characteristics of WAGs, how women participants use them, how nonparticipants perceive them, what design limitations exist, and the challenges in deployment and effectiveness. This study will utilize the “Organizational Interventions Mitigating Individual Barriers” framework (Annabi & Lebovitz, 2018) to examine the characteristics of WAGs in order to determine the potential opportunities and limitations of WAGs in addressing barriers women face in IT.