Women in Business

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29th March 2018

Why gender diversity can help to drive innovation

The past decade has witnessed significant improvements in gender equality within the workplace, but it would appear that some of the fast-growing industries such as technology, continue to see a dominance of men rather than women rising to senior positions.  

As a female director working in the technology market, I have always encouraged other women into the sector and to build their careers in this market. However, over the past 12 months I have attended a number of IT events where I have been one of a small number of women. Whilst I recognise that these things can take time, I am keen to see some indication that more women are coming into the IT market and are seeing their careers flourish.

Encouraging diversity in tech

Recent stats on the UK Tech Sector report that only 17% of employees are women; only one in six school leavers starting a degree in computer science in 2016 was female and the total number of girls taking either ICT or computer science at GCSE fell by 12% in the same year.

According to an article in the Guardian, ‘Women make up less than a quarter of UK boardrooms’, the number of female board members is on the rise, but has a long way to go. The overall percentage of women on boards was around 22%. In 2017, 16% of boards had no female members at all; but this is an improvement to the 33% in 2013.

Fundamental change is required to better support gender parity. Confirmation bias is said to play a pivotal role in stalling gender equality. It is a societal tendency to fixate and associate success and innovation with male role models. A perception that hiring processes are still based on historical profiles rather than the actual ability and skills of the applicant remains a problem too. Business owners and leaders must help to diminish these subtle psychological denigrations by engaging with schools and communities to capture interest when pupils are deciding on their careers and educational direction, work with apprenticeship schemes as well as implement policies to encourage non-discriminatory hiring and ensure that expectations of equality are met in the workplace.

Women in housing

Then we look at the social housing market, which fare’s better than many other markets. In a 2017 report from Inside Housing, women make up 39% of executives and 36% of board members. 42 out of 64 housing associations are led by male chief executives, but 36% have executive teams made up of half or more women. When you look at the current g15 group of London’s largest Housing Associations, 33% of the leading CEO members are women which is in line with the Inside Housing research.

Interestingly, Grant Thornton’s report on ‘The value of diversity’ looked at diverse boards in India, UK and the US and found that diverse boards out performed male-only peers by $655bn (roughly £460bn). It identifies that an organisation’s profitability increases when at least one women is on the board. There is logic to this success, as people who are alike tend to think similarly and will generate very comparable ideas. This, more often than not, will stunt innovation as there is no challenge being made amongst the team of decision makers.

Growing the number of women in tech

As the number of women working in tech increases, IT roles in any business sector will naturally appeal to a wider demographic of people, which is likely to encourage more women to consider a career in IT and to apply for jobs in our market. This is great for us!

This movement is not solely about resolving the pay gap. Women are an untapped reservoir of business potential that can help the sector continue to grow and evolve.  I want to see greater diversity in our market and fellow businesses in this sector to continue to take steps to review practices and support change. The world is evolving and our fast moving sector needs to adapt its work force to support this. We all need to look at the number of women who apply for IT roles in our organisations and how many are successful? Is there something that can be done to improve this?

We recently had Sonal join our Developer team who is proving to be a great addition to the team for our web development projects. I think our development team is a little rare as we have a 50% ratio of females to males on the team. It’s been fantastic to have the opportunity in the recruitment process to interview and employ candidates from both demographics. I asked Sonal why she went into developing and her response?

“I enjoy developing code. The languages are constantly evolving and my work is different every day. I really love the new challenges I get to solve. I’m glad I chose developing as a career and hope to see more women joining me!”