It’s surprising that in 2019, companies are still behind in bridging an archaic gender gap, particularly in the technology field. One would expect that a modern industry so focused on creative problem-solving and driving efficiency would better recognize the many real business advantages of hiring more women, especially in the tech space. While there has been some measurable progress in recent years – on the bright side, 47% of tech nonprofit founders were women in 2018 – the disparity remains at surprising ratios. In the for-profit tech space, the number of women founders drops to just 17%. Women still represent a much smaller percentage of the workforce at major tech companies, and believe it or not, women in chief executive roles at Fortune 500 companies are still outnumbered by men named James.
As technological savvy and agile product development is increasingly key to business growth across industries, all companies would be prudent to bridge the gender gap; not just for ethical reasons, or to meet HR requirements, but for the tangible benefits that come with ensuring equal representation in the workforce. Decades of psychological and sociological research shows that diversity of thinking leads to sharper problem-solving and strong ideation in a team – skills that are especially crucial in the tech space, where complex, often unforeseen challenges abound. Working on a team of different genders and backgrounds is scientifically proven to increase our creativity; not only because each person brings a unique perspective to the table, but because humans fundamentally perform better in such groups; naturally assessing problems from more angles and anticipating opposing viewpoints.
Not only that, but gender diversity is truly more profitable; a global survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries showed that the presence of women in corporate positions led to increased revenue. Strategically, it’s also worth noting that whether they’re B2B or B2C, a company’s ability to effectively market their products and understand the needs of their full customer base is seriously hindered by a lack of women in the workforce. In the tech space in particular – even with groundbreaking products designed for women dominating headlines at events like CES 2019 – there’s still a largely untapped industry in need of technological advancement; countless ways the health and lives of women can still be improved globally, and thus, plenty of fresh space for startups and innovators to soar.
So how can companies improve diversity in hiring for tech, and encourage more women to pursue leadership positions? Many studies point to changes parents can make during a child’s formative years, and overall, ensuring science and engineering toys are marketed and accessible to young girls, but there are many improvements that can be made in the office as well. Fostering an inclusive and receptive workplace – not merely permitting all ideas to be aired, but urging women to voice their perspectives and preventing disruptions or bias when they do – is perhaps the best start. Beyond building the right company culture, it’s also important that leaders understand how old-fashioned gender norms can have an unconscious effect on career development to this day, and combat them whenever identified. Both inside and outside the workplace, women tend to apologize more frequently than men, are overall less confident, and more likely to feel they don’t deserve their job (also known as “imposter syndrome”). Leaders who mentor women and help empower them to push past such barriers will not only reap the many benefits to their own business, but be part of a big step forward that is long overdue, and hopefully soon to come.