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Why tech companies need more women

Sunday May 19 2019

GENDER PARITY

Board meeting. There are few women in the top echelons of tech leadership. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SAM WAMBUGU
By SAM WAMBUGU
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As we close the week in which we celebrated Mother’s Day, it’s important to reflect on the participation of women in the tech industry.

There is a tremendous amount of evidence showing that women in technology lag behind men both in salaries and in positions of leadership. The scale tilts terribly in favour of men.

The picture in many organisations in Africa and around the world is: There are few women in the top echelons of tech leadership.

Notwithstanding that women are not rewarded equally, their ability is not in question. They are seen at least as effective tech managers and leaders as men.

The technology industry has been accused of making it difficult to combine having a tech career with motherhood, hence dissuading young women from building a lasting career in the industry.

In a recent study reported in Fortune, 85 per cent of 716 women surveyed who have left the tech industry cited maternity leave policy as a major factor in their decision to leave.

PRODUCTIVITY

Gender imbalance works against the industry because it denies it the important and unique contribution that women bring to the table.

Numerous studies underline reasons why women are well-suited for managerial and leadership positions at all levels.

First, there are psychological and motivational benefits. Having women in senior leadership roles, for example, will positively encourage other females to join an organisation that is supportive of advancing women’s careers, thus increasing overall company growth and productivity.

Second, women have a critical role in improving the bottom line of a business.

There is documented evidence to show that women help companies to be more competitive.

Businesses with the most women managers and board members have better returns. Therefore, gender diversity helps companies maximise their profit.

PERCEPTION

Perhaps these differences arise from the way women and men think about themselves and success.

Men tend to credit their success to their innate abilities. They are likely to see success as something visceral; something in their DNA.

Women, however, tend to attribute their success to hard work or luck.

They believe that they have to work hard to earn success. They are therefore likely to shy away from applying for jobs which men with equal qualifications would apply for.

Whereas these gender-related perceptions can be debated to determine their validity, to get ahead, women may want to invest more in understanding their talents and unique abilities, and use them in marketing themselves.

LOGIC

They need to connect more with peers, mentors and coaches to fast-track their pace to the top.

Tech businesses will need to tailor their recruitment and talent development to reduce the existing gender disparity.

They need to see gender equity not like an altruistic gesture, but from the realisation that leadership skills displayed by women managers are strongly linked to organisational success factors.

In any case, women make up half the world, so it’s only logical they make up half the workforce, including tech.

Wambugu is an informatician. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @samwambugu2

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