My role as Managing Director for Girls in Tech – Switzerland is to identify why there aren’t more women in tech and to understand how to remedy the gap. While I’m not one to accept the status quo without a question, it is important to ask the question: is the status quo OK? Is it OK to have only 15-25% of women in tech? In a word, no. Here’s why.
At a macro-level for society
Tech is designed for men, and it’s dangerous
Tech is too often designed for men’s bodies. This includes vital inventions such as the airbag and artificial hearts as well as everyday tech such as smartphones. As we become more and more dependent on technology for our health and quality of life, women should be as influential as men in the development of technology.
We need more people in tech, period
We currently lack qualified engineers. Companies are struggling to hire software engineers– even top companies like Google and Facebook. This is hurting our ability to grow companies and embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If as many women go into engineering as men do today, we can meet that demand.
Diversity fosters innovation
Research shows that teams comprised of men and women produced the most frequently cited software patents—with citation rates that were 26% higher than the norm for similar patents. A highly cited patent usually means it is core to its field and therefore represents significant innovation.
Women’s issues are ripe for disruption
There are some products that, by their nature, are only purchased by women and deserve to be re-invented. For example, breast pumps and pregnancy tests. People are less likely to start a company in a sub-industry that has no relationship to them. Thus, with more women in tech, we will make greater progress in those areas.
At a micro-level in business
Diversity is good for business: we are your users!
Case in point: early speech recognition machines were made by all-male teams, and they calibrated it for their voices. When they tried to sell to primarily female secretarial teams, the technology failed miserably. Plus, research proves that companies with the highest representation of women in senior leadership have better financial performance and that Fortune 500 companies with women CEOs outperformed the market.
Diversity is good for employee retention
According to a Deloitte study, diversity practices relate positively to employee engagement. It proves there are strong causal linkages between diversity, trust and employee engagement, and perceptions of inclusion are an important moderating factor in diversity creating trust and therefore driving employee retention.
Diversity makes the workplace safer
Sexual harassment is twice as common in male-dominated organizations as it is in gender-balanced organizations.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that beyond the moral imperative of equal opportunity, we will be safer and businesses will be more successful with an inclusive tech sector since diversity provides a more balanced approach, more inclusive design and more innovation.
Stefany is on a mission to change the face of tech by making the sector more inclusive. To this end, Stefany has created Girls in Tech – Switzerland, who organise expert tech and career events, and WaaS Websites to make websites affordable to small businesses. Today, Stefany works in Big Data for software company Palantir. Stefany’s areas of expertise are diversity in the workplace and tech that will shape our future.