07 March, 2020

The number of women in senior leadership in business has grown and diversity in leadership is good for business. The tech sector must attract more women to unlock the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and ensure technology is developed from a balanced perspective.

In an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter whether there’s a woman running the IMF or Microsoft. Does an SME owner or tech start-up care that it’s a woman who makes finance more accessible? If a miner, factory worker or fisherman gets a better share of the profits and can send his or her children to school, are they bothered that a woman made it possible?

Encouraging more women into leadership positions remains critical in our era and given the fast-approaching challenges of the future.

The overall number of women in top business roles is still very low. But there are reasons for optimism. Since 2015, the number of women in senior leadership has grown, particularly in the C-suite where the representation of women has increased from 17% to 21%. Today, 44% of companies have three or more women in their C-suite, up from 29% of companies in 2015.

Evolving job needs are empowering women and leveling the playing field. The new service economy does not rely on physical strength but skills that come easily to women, such as determination, attention to detail and measured thinking. The female brain is naturally wired for long-term strategic vision and community building.

The emergence of female leaders can become a centrifugal force for good in the world. For the first time, we’re seeing examples of female leaders emerging from across the generations to cross-weave their knowledge and drive for change. Importantly, there are now ambitious and capable women running influential organizations who can activate physical change through technology and policy. The recent progress with the circular economy and blockchain is a prime example.

Tech can lead the way

There’s nothing inherently masculine about blockchain, AI or machine learning; computers are androgynous by nature. Yet, the tech sector remains heavily dominated by men. In cloud computing, just 12% of professionals are women; in engineering and Data and AI, the numbers are 15% and 26% respectively. Unless the sector can balance the ledger by making roles attractive to women, then we risk missing out on the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Organizations need to ensure there are sufficient rungs on the ladder to help women climb into management positions. We need to be open-minded enough to bring in female leaders from other industries, who don’t have a tech background. Technology also has a role to play – and responsibility – in promoting diversity in the workplace, given its ability to change working relationships, encourage transparency and connect people around the world. In a period of constant flux, organizations that prioritize a diverse and inclusive culture will be better placed to solve the problems of the future.

Companies with an inclusive culture are six times more likely to be innovative. By staying ahead of changes, they are twice as likely to hit or better financial targets. This means providing female mentors and role models, demonstrating trust rather than talking about it, creating an environment that encourages collaboration, using technology to break barriers and sourcing innovation openly.

Women can lead our sector forward too. Now that technology is all-pervasive, the traditional sector lines have become blurred. Brands that cling to the old structures will find themselves overtaken and left behind. This is when women’s ability to empathize and seek compromise becomes a powerful asset. If technology is supposed to service the whole of humanity, the big decisions need to be taken from a balanced perspective because the survival of the planet requires new thinking and strategies.