women gender technology need diversity tech also
Why it’s vital we close the tech gender gapI am a woman, and I work in technology. I am incredibly proud to be able tosay that.Technology is one of the key drivers of social and economic change, and as theCEO of Booking.com I am able to play my part in that. There are women theworld over who are making an incredible impact in technology every day,disrupting and transforming businesses, industries and communities.However, there is still a strong under-representation of women in tech. Thisneeds to change. Not only do we need more women in technology, we also need tosee more of these women in leadership roles.According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017, the slowbut steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt thisyear, with the global gender gap widening for the first time since the reportwas first published in 2006. Clearly, more must be done to drive the diversityagenda as a whole.The benefits of addressing the gender gap and encouraging more women to enterinto technology are strikingly obvious. According to a report by the EuropeanCommission, encouraging more women to take on roles in the digital sectorcould boost the EU’s GDP by €9 billion a year. What is more, the Credit SuisseGender 3000 report found that companies with greater board gender diversityshow greater stock market returns adjusted for sector bias, as well as highervaluations and payout ratios – indicating a clear business case for empoweringwomen to take on senior management positions and leadership roles.To redress the gender imbalance, it is imperative that those at the helms oforganisations imbue a working culture that encourages diversity at all levelsof the organization. We need to create businesses and organisations that womenactually want to work for. In the first instance this means taking intoaccount the challenges and obstacles women face in the workplace, andaddressing these through gender-equal HR policies and benefits packages. In myexperience, though, it also means creating a culture of confidence. There’s noability gap, so it is essential that we close the perception that there isone.The myth and perception is that there aren’t opportunities for women in techwho don’t have a coding or engineering background. Technology companies needwomen in those roles, but they also need more women across other criticalfunctions, such marketing and finance. More women in non-technical roles canhelp drive and engage women in technical roles too: diversity extends beyondfunctional silos.Like any CEO in the industry, I always feel like my company could be doingmore. One of the barriers cited most often by women considering the techindustry is the lack of visible role models. Therefore, as a female techleader, one of my key responsibilities is to share my story and to support,empower and inspire others.This is why I have encouraged a number of ongoing and active initiatives wherewe are trying to make a real difference, and to make the industry a moreattractive career choice for talented women.As a demonstration of our commitment to this cause, we have recently launcheda number of Women in Tech initiatives, both within the walls of Booking.comand outside, including the Technology Playmaker awards, which celebratesuccessful women in the industry. They will recognise, applaud and rewardwomen’s achievements, so they can become a source of inspiration for futuregenerations of women looking to embrace the opportunities the world oftechnology can offer.We have also introduced a scholarship programme with two leading Europeanuniversities – Oxford and Delft TU – and a mentoring programme for women atWeb Summit, as well as supporting the aims of the Digital Skills and JobsCoalition of the European Commission.Other organisations across the technology sector are doing the same.Accenture’s chief leadership and human resources officer recently announcedthat the company plans to create a 50 percent female workforce by 2025.Currently, just over 35 percent of its employees are women – which shows thelevel of commitment the company is willing to make. Salesforce has also workedtowards the inclusion of women and mothers in the workforce, launching itsSupermums programme as a way of supporting working mothers in the sector.Great strides are being made to close the gender gap, and women in technologyare doing brilliant things every day. But to truly make a difference, leadersfrom across the sector need to come together to champion and promote theindustry. By showcasing our female leaders and innovators, we will encouragemore companies to think about and embrace gender diversity in technology. Onlythen will organisations be able to better attract and retain female talent.For reasons beyond the boardroom, gender-diverse workforces are the key tofair, strong and prosperous societies.The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not theWorld Economic Forum.