There is now increasing evidence to support the idea that diversity breeds innovation.
Different perspectives bring different ideas and a recent report by Mckinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their competitors. The Harvard Business Review also found that companies with diverse leadership allow for an environment where ‘thinking outside the box’ is more frequently embraced. So in an industry like tech that thrives on innovation, having a diverse set of employees is imperative.
However, in the case of women in tech, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Women only represent 25% of people in IT, 11% in executive positions at Silicon Valley companies, and only 5% of tech start-ups are owned by women.
But things are slowly, but surely, starting to change and the results speak for themselves. According to the book ‘Little Miss Geek’ by Belinda Parmar, tech companies with woman on the management team see a 34% higher return on investment.
As more females are rising to more prominent positions in business, it sets a great example for the next generation to see that, it is in fact, cool to be a woman in tech.
From women like Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg who wrote Lean In, and created LeanIn.org to support women in business, to Tinder Co-Founder Whitney Wolfe who founded a new dating app, Bumble, when her colleagues at Tinder tried to have her demoted—our daughters have many more examples of strong women in tech than I did while growing up.
Additionally, we’re beginning to see a greater number of support systems to get girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Just last month, Johnson & Johnson announced an initiative to reach one million girls between the ages of 5 and 18 to spark their interest in sciences and tech. Meanwhile, groups like Girls Who Code in the US and Code First: Girls here in the UK hold free summer programs and after-school clubs to get girls interested in the building blocks of software development.
However, once these girls grow up and actually apply for jobs in STEM fields, the challenge is then to work on fair hiring and benefits to keep women happy in their jobs. According to Harvard Business School, right now a staggering 56% of women in STEM fields eventually leave, for reasons ranging from unfriendly working environments for mothers, to sexism and sexual harassment, to a general feeling of not fitting into a male-dominated workplace. But there are ways to combat this. For instance, when Google increased their maternity leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers left decreased by 50%.
A Trend Upward
As the benefits of a diverse workforce become more widely acknowledged in the boardroom, we are likely to see more woman rise to executive positions in tech. Progress is slow but I’m already noticing real improvements first-hand: in education, in recruitment and in succession planning. So while the cultural shift may be modest, the impact on the tech industry will undoubtedly be significant.
Opinions given within this article are my own personal views. My views and opinions are effective from the date of publication but may be subject to change without notice. I have no affiliation with the companies mentioned in this piece and all research has been independent.