When you think of women in the technology industry, it’s almost inevitable that your mind will wander towards visions of female powerhouses like Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube or Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP of Apple. According to Forbes, these are two of 2016’s ten most powerful women in the industry; and it only takes a quick glance at their track records to see why. This denotes a surprisingly narrow view of the tech industry, particularly when there appears to be a constant drive to amplify diversity in the sector.
Shockingly enough, research from PwC indicates that only 3% of female students lean towards a career in technology as their first choice. Efforts to narrow the gender gap aren’t nearly as successful as they could be in the Age of Technological Disruption. The fact of the matter is that young women standing on the precipice of their future career choices feel like they don’t have enough information on the technology sector to take the leap. In many cases, there is the belief that the industry doesn’t offer much scope for creativity.
It’s up to women currently working in the tech industry to provide some insight on how varied, innovative, and exhilarating a career in this sector can be. It’s not all about working for a tech giant, and you certainly don’t need a background in tech to get your foot in the door. Being a “Woman in Tech” goes well beyond hard skills. Instead, the term encompasses virtually every role within any company aiming to integrate technology into all initiatives from the top down.
There’s a misguided stigma attached to the concept of women in tech that needs addressing. Not every woman in the industry is a “geek”, “fake nerd”, or “gamer girl”. Perhaps young women are hesitant to join an industry that frequently questions their power and intelligence. According to pop culture and media representation, women in this sector are either a part of the small percentage of “real” super nerds who made it to the top, or the aforementioned fake nerds who hover in the shadows of their male counterparts.
The Disparity Between Men and Women in Tech
The most notable disparity between men and women in tech is the marked pay gap. A recent study by Comparably showed that women under 25 earn around 29% less than men their age. This may come as somewhat of a surprise, what with the supposed meritocracy of the industry as a whole. There is hope, however. The same study showed that women over the age of 50 face a mere 5% pay gap. Of course, while this is a much smaller financial disadvantage, the fact that there is a pay gap at all is a no-no in a time where the fight for gender equality in the workplace rages fast and furious on every level.
Despite being further along in terms of gender-based philosophy than we were in the days of Aristotle, the notion that men are more rational than women continues to bubble under the surface. The age-old dichotomy of reason versus emotion suggests that men are better-suited to jobs in tech than women are. Even though statistics show that girls consistently out-perform boys in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at school, the emotional taint remains.
Christina Morillo, co-founder of Women Of Colour In Tech Chat, had the following to say about the disparity between men and women in tech: “I think we as a society have done a terrible job of encouraging young girls to engage in STEM at an early age… our actions show that boys grow up to become whatever they want, while girls are encouraged to take ‘safer paths’”. Too many young women feel that the technology sector is somewhat of a “boy’s club” - a place that will have them continuously struggling to fit in.
Unsurprisingly, women are less likely to obtain leadership positions in tech than men are. This is possibly due to the fact that they are less likely to be employed in the first place. According to a survey published by Silicon Valley Bank, fewer than 50% of tech companies place women in high levels of senior management. When one of the main objectives within the tech industry is breaking boundaries by leading with new ideas, it becomes even more important to have several leading ladies in prominent positions. With an adequate mix of men and women in leadership positions, the diversity of ideas and perspectives would inevitably lead to more well-rounded approaches to problem solving and brainstorming as a whole.
How Women Add Value to Companies & Communities
Perhaps the most striking thing about female businesswomen is that they are likely to reinvest 90% of their revenues into the community. By reinvesting profits in social goods (education, nutrition, household expenditure, and caring for children and elderly people) women add value that reaches far beyond the walls of the companies they work for.
Arancha González, executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), is steadfast in his support of elevating the economic role of women. The prevailing opinion seems to be that giving funds to women, rather than men, will reap greater social benefits overall. The huge issue of inequality - both in the tech sector and other industries - reaches beyond company profits, wrapping its tendrils around communities at large.
There is a much higher concentration of women-led businesses in health and social work as well as community, social, and personal services. There are, however, several incentives to promote female empowerment in other industries:
- A passage to unexplored employee talent:
An increase in diversity - particularly encouraging more women in management and executive roles - fosters a more collaborative, supportive, and innovative working environment.
- A boost in supply chain reliability:
Providing women with greater access to resources, technology, and information assist in boosting productivity, productivity, and supply chain reliability.
- A connection with female customers:
Around the world, women are in control of up to $28 trillion in consumer spending. Connecting with this enormously profitable consumer base can only be positive.
- A gateway to new distribution channels:
Women are effective distributors of products and services, especially during the transporting of smaller amounts of stock to reliable retailers, which builds a greater market demand.
- Enrichment of business brand and reputation:
Women tend to respond positively to companies with a reputation for valuing women’s work. Inevitably, this will help boost sales, especially to other women.
Celebrating the Diversity of the Technology Sector
While, overall, gender disparity within the tech industry is a clear problem, there is a glimmer of fluorescent light on the horizon. Initiatives like the Tech Diversity Awards strive to promote inclusion and multiplicity, not only in terms of gender, but across the board. The focus of this campaign is to increase the involvement of women and other minority groups in all aspects of the digital industry sector, including business, education, media, and advertising.
Gender diversity in companies serves to effectively – and successfully – develop products and services that appeal to a wider audience. Additionally, teams made up of individuals from a broad range of experiences and backgrounds assist in promoting progress in several areas, as well as increasing problem solving abilities.
The financial implications of employing diverse teams is particularly encouraging. According to a study by McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians. In 2011, Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 list showed that placing females in executive management positions led to a remarkable increase of over $40 million in firm value.
Women in Goodman Lantern
Goodman Lantern is one of the few companies in the tech industry boasting a delivery team that is 70% female. Heading the battle for gender diversity is Kiley Doll, the company’s VP of sales in the U.S. Born to be an entrepreneur, Kiley is passionate about the empowerment of struggling female impresarios. A tenacious businesswoman, Kiley started out in the real estate industry as a broker, where she spent 14 years consistently ranking among the top 10% high earning realtors her company. Kiley’s passion for progress has led to the pursuit of a prosperous career in business development, having consulted and worked with well-known household names including Amazon, EO, Long Realty Company, in North America, Europe, and Africa. Within Goodman Lantern, this rockstar “oumi” of eight is one of those female leaders the tech industry desperately needs to inspire the up-and-coming generation.
Kiley’s love of mentorship, particularly female-centric mentorship, has fanned the flames of entrepreneurial spirit within the company. Flexible schedules and open resources are a major drawing card for women working at Goodman Lantern. In Kiley’s own words, “We at GL felt we need to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit with each of our team members. With our flex-schedule and the open amount of resource we offer, this can be the fuel the fire the entrepreneur at heart. As a woman owning several different business, a serial entrepreneur and mentor, I have personally witnessed how working with women at GL has bridged the gap between clients and their struggle to multi-task within in their business. Multi-tasking is second nature for women and these women of technology have a knack for saving time and money for their clients.”
What sets Goodman Lantern apart from other companies in the industry is the fact that it doesn’t identify as an inherently “tech only” company. The services provided by the Goodman Lantern team fall under marketing, research, lead generation, data analysis, and content development, among others. There’s scope for creativity and room for growth - something not widely seen in the tech industry as it is now.
Goodman Lantern has built a workframe that is open and inclusive, welcoming all women: those that are career-focused, those that want balanced family/work life, and those that want more freedom. This company doesn’t drive hardcore feminism - pitting women against men - opting to give women a viable alternative income in any stage of their life instead. Goodman Lantern has the exact same policy for male and female staff, giving their interests the same value. It’s this attitude of inclusion that brings feminism into the 21st century.
Gathering comments from three other women in leadership roles within the company proved to be overwhelmingly positive:
Goodman Lantern, at its core, is in the business of trading time. There’s a delicate balance in helping clients take back their time whilst assisting staff members in trading their time effectively and productively. Too many highly educated women in emerging economies struggle to find good jobs in their countries. The ever-prevalent gender gap leads women to settle for low-paying jobs that offer little to no prospects of advancement. Within Goodman Lantern, women are given the chance to showcase their strongest skillsets, working for clients across the globe.
Goodman Lantern Promotes Growth
One of the initial drawing cards offered by Goodman Lantern is a flexible working arrangement, fostering an environment which heroes choice, agility, and complexity. It’s this work environment that enables companies to meet future and present challenges head on. Goodman Lantern provides team members with a choice as to when, where, and how they prefer to work. This is an idyllic working situation offering a low cost solution which helps employees balance their work, family, and personal needs.
Another of Goodman Lanterns major aims is to ignite a pioneering spirit with each of its team members. Employees are encouraged to grow not only within the company but in their own entrepreneurial pursuits as well. There’s a strong element of mentorship that pervades the day-to-day workings of the company and a support system that team members find invaluable.
A recent study by Hiscox shows that there are innumerable benefits to living the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Non-financial perks are at the top of the list. More and more people - women in particular - crave the ability to work from any location and a sense of having complete control over their lives rather than being at the mercy of an inflexible, 9-to-five desk job.
The Way Forward
The disparities between men and women in the tech industry may remain marked but there are companies that not only embrace change but encourage it from the inside out. Women add value to the tech industry by diversifying it and creating an environment that encourages a wider range of skillsets.
In promoting a work ethic that sets men and women up as equals, tech companies like Goodman Lantern are heading into what many may consider to be unchartered waters. There’s no better way to stay ahead of the curve in the era of disruption than to be at the forefront of positive change.