Two weeks ago on September 22nd was National Business Women’s Day. I love this concept: taking time to reflect on and celebrate the many great women I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with over my career, especially through WBENC and Astra. But having a dedicated day to recognize women in business across the country made me consider, in particular, women working in the tech sector, those I’ve gotten to work with and the many I have not.
While we at ARTÉMIA Communications are heavily involved in supplier diversity, we are also passionate about diversity as a whole. It’s no secret that the ratio of men to women in the tech industry is unbalanced, with a recent study in the Huffington Post pointing out that “women only hold 26 percent of all tech jobs.” As someone involved in the area of diversity, I am especially invested in working towards making all company cultures, across every industry, more aware and embracing of diversity.
You might think that we are making progress in increasing the representation of women in the tech industry, but unfortunately that’s not the case yet. A study by the American Association of University Women pointed out that the number of women in computing used to be 35% back in 1990, and has fallen to 26%. According to the Huffington Post, women currently make up 30% of Google’s workforce but have only 17% of the tech jobs. At Facebook and Twitter women are only found in 15 and 10% of tech positions, respectively. Across the rest of the company’s non-technical positions, however, the gender split is largely 50-50.
On a positive note, more tech companies are beginning to release diversity numbers and realize the benefits of having a diverse staff. Google first shared its diversity numbers in 2014, and other companies followed suit. Yet the number of women in the tech industry remains far too low and it is critical that we continue working towards more diverse workplaces.
I’ve been asked many times over the years, working with clients across industry sectors: Why should a company push for workforce diversity? Does it really matter?
I decided to answer here with some of my top motivators:
Team Ingenuity and Success
A great team has a diverse spectrum of skills, backgrounds, and personalities. All of which combine and complement each other to create solutions to problems and execute tasks in innovative ways, thanks to a variety of perspectives and ways of looking at things. This shows what most of us know, to quote a recent Anita Borg study, “diversity powers innovation.”
This study even shows that teams with “at least one female member outperform all-male groups in collective intelligence tests.” Furthermore, the study includes a report from the London Business School which “explores the impact of the proportion of women in professional working teams.” Their conclusion? The best gender ratio for a professional team is 50:50.
Knowing Your Audience
A great team is an important aspect of a successful business enterprise, but knowing your audience is also critical. A company’s reputation in any sphere is paramount to initial and continued success. By portraying themselves as an organization that prioritizes inclusivity, investment, and development for diversity, a company can stand out from the pack. Which I can assure you, having worked with many tech and startup companies, is a daily struggle from a PR and marketing perspective.
Anita Borg agrees, “One way to send positive signal to the labor market is to identify, attract and develop female talent.” And success for one of us is success for all. Considering that the US Bureau of Labor Statistics stated “IT will be one of the fastest growing sectors of the US economy,” it is definitely time for women to move into tech.
A report by Catalyst found that “Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors.” Given that well managed diversity produces results at every other level in the company, it only makes sense that diverse leadership at the highest levels would amplify those strategic innovations.
While the common opinion that women are more skilled at collaboration and relationship building may be due in part to a societal bias, it has also been reinforced by various studies. Research from the Harvard Business Review showed that women generally are more deliberate about building relationships in a wider network, and took greater care when assessing prospective connections.
The National Bureau for Economic Research found that “women are more attracted to cooperation than men. Men often overestimate their capabilities, while downplaying those of their colleagues, while women are a better judge of their abilities and therefore are not averse to suggestions and help from their team members.”
There is hope that the number of women in leadership is on the rise. Last year a survey study from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management found that “the number of female CEOs [in surveyed companies] rose from 14 to 17, for a 21 percent increase [from the previous year].” And in 2015 there was ample movement by some biotech companies which moved to put women in the most “plum executive spots” according to Fierce Biotech. Fintech may also be paving the way, as evidenced in this feature about “pioneering women shaking up digital finance.”
No matter where your company currently lies on the diversity spectrum, there are always ways to improve. As Google introduces workshops to highlight diversity awareness, and others push for hiring practices that focus on diversity as one of the bottom lines, we know how far we have come—and how far we still have to go. By working together, we can come closer to diversifying workplaces and enjoying the benefits as organizations and as individuals. I strongly believe diversity is a large piece of the puzzle in establishing great work environments and to creating and delivering a superior product.
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