Women in technology

Building a more representative future

With the echoes of the recent International Women’s Day still audible, one issue rings a little louder than most in our ears… and that’s the state of play regarding women in technology.

It’s a tale of two halves really. It’s clear women still aren’t integral to key decision-making in the majority of tech firms, and in many cases, not even central to the ideation and planning stages of products. But there is a good news story emerging, pointing to the fact change is happening. And here at Ingram Micro, we prefer to focus on silver linings and bright futures.

So, in this piece, we’ll look why businesses should be accelerating the creation of teams with better gender balance. It’s a different take on sustainability, but there is no doubt that if input from 52% of the population is missing from the products and platforms that shape our daily lives, everyone’s future is poorer for it.

What do the stats say?

According to a CNET report, women make up only 10% of Twitter’s technical workforce, with just 21% in leadership roles. And at Google, there are just 17% of women in tech jobs, with 21% responsible for managing others. Here at home, the number of working women in technology is significantly lower than most other UK work sectors, at just 17%.

Figures like these point a finger at how few women are influencing product development and the strategic direction of a business. And this isn’t sustainable long term.

Balanced teams create more relevant products

Technology is only useful if it fulfils a need in those who use it. It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but the reality is that pretty much every tech firm, the world over, lives or dies by how well they know their audience.

A lot of money is spent on demographic analysis, qualitative and quantitative research, statistics, customer insights… just some of the tools companies use to profile their audiences and tailor brands and propositions to reach the widest possible buying population.

But if women remain under-represented in the creation, development and delivery of tech products and services, you have to question how relevant they’ll be to female customers. Long term, companies that don’t address this might find profits slipping and their brand rejected by half of the buying population. Building a pipeline of female talent should be imperative. The companies that achieve this first could find it drives competitive advantage.

The facts speak for themselves

A report by Morgan Stanley showed that highly gender-diverse tech companies achieved, on average, 5.4% more in annual return than the average yearly sum of their peers with less gender diversity. They analysed 1,600 corporates across all sectors (including tech) and found that companies with balanced gender equality had stronger fundamentals and better risk-adjusted performance.

Other studies have proven that companies with balanced viewpoints, broad market insights and inclusive approaches to problem-solving achieve higher sales, attract more customers and gain a bigger market share than their less-diverse rivals.

You’re in good company…

Progress is definitely being made in the industry, with more women in high-profile roles, leading companies forward and providing inspiration for other women to join them. This isn’t limited to the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Ginni Rometty and Meg Whitman.

Take Sarah Wood’s firm, Unruly, for example… an online video advertising company with big ambitions. Their mission, at start-up in 2006 (and beyond), was to transform advertising for the better, using intelligent emotional testing and targeting. So successful has Sarah Wood and her team been that, in 2015 Rupert Murdoch bought the company for £58 million. Today, it flies in the face of the tech world’s gender gap trend, with 44% of the board, 45% of managers, and 48% of the total workforce being female.

Another glowing example is Decoded’s Kathryn Parsons. Her organisation works to improve digital literacy. How? By teaching people how to code. It’s a truly transformative approach to tech that’s helping de-mist and clarify what’s long been the preserve of the few. Parson’s co-founded Decoded in 2011 and has won many awards. They include UK Start-up Entrepreneur of the year and Woman of the Future award in Technology.

These are just two of many inspiring women changing the future of tech. You can discover more of the UK’s heavy hitters in this showcase of 50 of the top women in the UK’s technology industry.

A balanced view of the future

It’s clear that diversity brings broader viewpoints to the table, and this means companies will see opportunities that would have been missed otherwise. There’s a way to go yet. But the good news is more businesses than ever before are actively working to recruit more women. And today’s technologies mean anyone with a good idea can turn it into a start-up business. We’re certain that by the time 8 March 2019 rolls around, there will be many more women shaping the technology that shapes our world. And we’re looking forward to hearing their stories.

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