Gender equality remains a major issue in the corporate world, and women remain significantly underrepresented in the corporate pipeline. Despite an abundance of research confirming that companies are more profitable when they have more women in the C-suite, we still have a gender gap in most companies. Diversity and inclusion cannot be part of a one-time campaign; rather, they are causes that require continuous work that needs to be developed, maintained and cultivated.
Information technology is one of the fastest-growing U.S. industries, and technical innovation will play a crucial role in almost every sector of our country’s economy. Based on data from Accenture, we have more jobs in computer science than graduates available to fill those positions, and the number of women in the U.S. computing workforce will shrink in the next 10 years unless we take action right now. The underrepresentation of women in tech is not a new topic, and even though progress has been made, it is moving at an extremely slow pace, and this issue will become a fundamental economic challenge for the U.S. economy if unaddressed.
While the percentage of women in the U.S. labor force has climbed to 46%, it is still significantly lower when it comes to the technology sector. The tech world is still a man’s world, and some of the reasons include the lack of female mentors, gender inequality in STEM jobs, and not having enough hands-on experience with STEM subjects.
Today, it is clear that superior innovation is achieved by having a diverse team where members can challenge each other and bring new perspectives. Here are three reasons more women are needed in tech:
1. Diversity Generates More Revenue
Compared to their peers, high-gender-diversity companies deliver slightly better returns, and they have outperformed, on average, less diverse companies over the past five years. Companies that not only hire but also manage to retain more women put themselves in a position to automatically gain a competitive advantage, a benefit that extends to all stakeholders.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Technical University of Munich conducted a study to understand the relationship between diversity in management. The results showed that increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance in both developing and developed economies. The study showed that companies with the greatest gender diversity (those in which 8 out of every 20 managers were female) generated about 34% of their revenues from innovative products and services in the most recent three-year period.
Fortune 500 companies with at least three women in leading positions saw a 66% increase in ROI and have a purchasing power of an estimated $5 trillion. We all use that power to buy computers, cars and consumer goods. On top of that, it is hard to deny that women are also responsible for most of the household spending decisions. Not taking advantage of a female presence in the workplace seems like a gamble most businesses shouldn’t take.
2. Women Think Differently
By nature, interacting with a diverse team forces individuals to prepare better and anticipate alternative viewpoints. The presence of women makes individuals anticipate differences in opinion and perspective and makes them assume that they will need to work harder to come to a consensus. We can all benefit from that kind of pressure.
Men and women see things differently and bring unique ideas to the table. This enables better problem solving, which can boost performance at the business unit level. Imagine all of the buying power you will tap into by bringing together a mix of genders with various backgrounds and ethnicities. Better yet, after your company gains a reputation of having a more diverse workforce, you also gain an extremely powerful recruiting tool at your disposal.
3. We Need More Role Models
By celebrating female tech leaders, it will hopefully encourage more girls to pursue their interests and careers in tech, thus increasing the hiring pool diversity. We need to ensure young girls have strong role models of other successful women in STEM and that women have a seat at the table so they can engage men on the topic of gender equality.
Being a woman in IT is not always easy, and being the only woman in the boardroom at times can put unseen pressure on you. Accountability also inspires action, and we need public policies to ensure employers are doing the right thing. Role models made a huge difference in my life because until I saw people who looked and sounded like me in leadership positions, it was difficult to believe that I could one day make it that far. When you bring women into senior roles, you demonstrate that others have an opportunity to succeed, too.
I know from personal experience that we must cultivate self-love, self-awareness and confidence to overcome all of the pressure while we fight toward earning the respect of others.
To help a company realize its full potential, we must make gender diversity a business priority. Personal choices are never made in a vacuum. Economic, cultural, organizational, and policy obstacles shape both men’s and women’s choices and opportunities. I encourage all leaders to identify those business units that are less diverse today and develop a comprehensive hiring strategy without reducing merit by setting inclusive goals and holding all managers accountable for diversity and inclusion.
In the end, we need more women who are willing to take on leadership positions, men who are willing to take on more responsibilities in the household and employers who embrace a more flexible workspace. We live in a profoundly connected and global world, and companies/institutions that are more diverse will achieve better performance. But my experience tells me that time will not solve the gender leadership gap we currently have — only decisive action can, and we must all buy-in.
This article originally appeared on Forbes and has been republished with permission