“Women in tech” is a buzzy trend these days. Organizations have been created around the topic, conferences planned around it and articles written on it, but the reality is that women working in the high-tech space is far from a new phenomenon, and there will be women working in tech in the future. So why all the attention now?

As the tech economy continues to expand – both with dedicated technology companies and companies who realize that expanding their technology capabilities is critical to remaining competitive – interest in industry-related trends continues to grow as well. Unfortunately, with that interest often comes scrutiny. When tech titans like Yahoo! and Google revealed their employee demographics earlier this year, the numbers confirmed critics’ longstanding claim that not only was there a lack of diversity overall, but also that gender diversity is anemic.

As a woman who’s been in tech for more than 30 years, I can say that these reports did not surprise me. However, what did surprise me is how in such a rapidly evolving, innovative industry the workplace could be so “stuck” in an archaic place AND pace. It’s important to point out that while it may be easy to point the finger at industry giants, it’s deeper than that. It’s systemic and starts with education.

The education I’m referencing, of course, is our schools, but there is another kind of education that is necessary to combat the issues surrounding gender diversity for those of us where on-the-job education is immensely valuable. As much as it’s critical that women learn how to elevate their accomplishments, feel comfortable speaking up and have the confidence to compete with their colleagues – and it is critical – it’s equally important that as managers, we promoted a sensitive, collaborative and gender blind workplace where anyone – male or female – can feel comfortable.

As a woman in tech with a uniquely gender-balanced team, I’ve worked hard to create a gender blind culture, where both men and women are evaluated on their merits and work product and are equally set up to succeed.

Here are five tips on how to create a gender blind work culture.

  • Lead by example and accomplishment: Don’t ask anyone on your team to be someone or do something that you wouldn’t do. Show these women (and men!) what success means by embodying it. Demonstrate that you can work alongside anyone, from the top down, and achieve success.
  • Build Bridges: Match up senior and junior developers / males and females for projects. It often poses challenges, but encourage team members to go back and reexamine how they communicate. This exercise promotes teamwork and communication, and expands their ability to “break through” with different people – regardless of work style, level, sex, etc.
  • Communicate early and often: There’s no need to take on “male” characteristics to earn respect in the workplace – effectiveness is the only language. Lead as a woman and command the respect of your team – male and female – by communicating well, early and often.
  • Say no to “I can’t”: “I can’t” is an unproductive phrase. There is always an answer and show your employees across the board that this type of thinking is unacceptable. Again, here, leading by example and sharing personal experience is always helpful to combat doubt.
  • Meritocracy: Reward hard work across the board. Show that whoever does the work will earn the recognition.

Ensuring balance, fairness and equal opportunity helps promote collaboration, and ultimately, more creative thinking and problem solving. Also, I’ve found, that these exercises increase communication and respect across the entire team. By creating a gender blind work environment, you can promote the women in tech cause while elevating your larger team together.