Closing the Gender Gap: Unlocking the Power of Diversity in Tech
Looking at the IT industry, women still remain largely underrepresented, particularly at a board level. While change is happening, it happens slowly, and we are likely to only see real diversity and inclusivity emerge in future generations. The momentum for that change has started, and it is important that it continues to grow, because diversity lies at the heart of creating both brands and products that are sustainable and serve the needs of future customers.
Homogenous leadership creates homogenous solutions
Numerous studies back up the fact that more diverse and inclusive enterprises are more successful, and this should not be a surprise. To create products and solutions that meet the needs of specific groups, it is essential to have insight into those groups, and what better way than belonging to them. One would never expect someone who does not cycle to have insight into the technology that cyclists need or want to improve their experience, and the same is true for any product.
When it comes to meeting the needs of female consumers, females will naturally have more insight into what would be useful to their lives. Considering that roughly half of the world’s population is female, it makes sense that having women involved in decisions regarding business strategy and solution design will result in greater success. Taking it a step back, homogenous leadership can only bring a homogenous viewpoint to the table, whereas a more diverse and inclusive leadership will bring different ideas and perspectives, which are more likely to result in the innovation that businesses thrive off today.
Addressing the imbalance
When you search for information on the board of IT companies, not specifically in South Africa but across the world, the leadership teams are often heavily male dominated, which is not necessarily appealing for women at first glance. The reality is that when women in technology are underrepresented, particularly women of colour, and often paid less and subject to unconscious bias – the workplace culture remains somewhat geared towards men and this lack of inclusivity is often the reason why women are reluctant to pursue careers in technology to begin with. When you drill into something more engineering-heavy like data management, this inequity is even more apparent.
Without adequate representation, despite mandates to be more inclusive, organisations will find it difficult to attract diverse talent. This is because a job is about more than a career path and a salary – it is about connections, relationships and mentors, and leadership teams need to be more representative to be more attractive to potential candidates. However, this is not a change that will happen overnight, and we need to address the disconnect from a school level. In the past, women were not encouraged to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and steered toward careers considered more stereotypically female. The intent to change is there, but it needs to be followed through to create the generational change required to effectively address the imbalance.
A different view
Technology lies at the heart of practically any new product and service that will support the world as it changes around 4IR. For businesses to be successful, they need to deliver the right product at the right time and in the right place – bespoke solutions are the future, and to create these for the diverse population of the world, we need diversity within the IT space. Diversity also supports innovation, another key for success and sustainability in a rapidly evolving world. Enterprises need to actively encourage more women, which in turn will create a culture more open to greater levels of diversity, with a long-term view.
At Commvault, for example, the Women in Tech (WIT) enterprise resource group was founded within the organisation in 2016 to create opportunities for networking and mentorship that enable the professional development of women. In the seven years of its existence, it has grown, and we are seeing increasing representation of women in leadership roles across the world. The key is for companies to walk the talk when it comes to diversity – not simply putting policies for female employments in place, but actively working to make it a reality.
While women are as ambitious and motivated, and as capable, as men in any sphere, including the technology sector, they bring different views, ideas and innovations which are increasingly important as technology evolves toward the betterment of society as a whole. The industry is so diverse, and technology touches literally everything – it is a platform for tremendous growth and a journey of continual learning. We need to encourage girls and women to become part of the industry, and women themselves need the drive and motivation to be the change the sector needs. Only with ongoing effort and generational change can we address the imbalances that persist in the technology space.