Women in tech: It's a multi billion dollar business

By Alex Tullio, CEO
on February 23, 2019

Women in tech: It's a multi billion dollar business

By Alex Tullio, CEO
on February 23, 2019
Women (and men) are good for business. No surprise there! But women leading billion dollars businesses — especially in the tech industry — is unfortunately a rare scenario unless you're Sheryl Sandberg. Now a disruptor like Kylie Jenner has appeared on the scene — or should we say Forbes list — busting the toughest glass ceiling when it comes to equality in the workplace.
When companies like First Round, a venture capitalist (VC) firm, publish their data on the advantages of women in business, it adds fuel to the conversation and drive for change. Notable here that funding for women founders is incredibly scarce. According to Fortune out of $84 billion of VC investment awarded to startups, only 2.7% went to women led companies. Crazy huh?

So what did First Round discover? When they reviewed their investment portfolios, they found that having women in founding teams outperformed founding teams that are all-male -- by a whopping 63 percent.

Women-founded or co-founded companies were also revealed to be better financial investments, where every dollar of funding generates 78 cents as compared to all-male founded startups that generate just 31 cents, according to a study by Boston Consulting Group and Mass Challenge.

If you need further evidence that things are starting to change it's worth reading Kauffman Foundation and Small Business Administration.

Time to shift the conversation and look at four ways to create an environment where both women and men can thrive in your organisation:
1) Recruit more women
Sounds obvious, right? Equality starts by hiring more women! But be weary here of being seen to be tokenistic.

First, you need to make sure that your recruiters and your positions aren't biased against women (or any gender for that matter!). Do a quick scan of your company's jobs advertised (don't just leave it to the HR team). Check that gender doesn't appear in the role or description. Or elsewhere throughout the application process. Ask yourself -- do you know if candidates are offered the opportunity to speak with a female leader or senior manager? If you don't know the answer, or why it's important perhaps it's time to open up a new conversation.
2) Develop awareness
Don't just assume your organisation knows what women leaders and employees want or need -- make sure you know that your company offers open channels of communication and forums where people can participate and be listened to. Drive this conversation from the top, and be an active part of the conversation. This includes 1-on-1 conversations, focus group discussions, qualitative or quantitative surveys -- whatever you can do to ensure that everyone's voices are heard.

Both female and male leaders have equal responsibility and power to do this. Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In, realised how difficult it was whilst pregnant to make the long tread across parking lots to the Google office. But it never crossed her mind to champion reserved parking until her husband pointed out that Yahoo had designated parking for expectant mothers at the front of their building.
3) Parental leave policies for both mothers and fathers
It's important to have generous maternity leave packages in place. Yes, there are actually commercial benefits to doing this but we'll save that conversation for another day. It's also about attracting more female professionals to your company, and showing your employees you're serious about their wellbeing.

But let's go even further down the equality line. Instead of marketing it as a maternity leave, change it to parental leave. Making this benefit inclusive for both men and women is the way smart companies are heading. Time to get with the times, starting with implementing an equal parenting policy.
4) Flexible schedules
In relation to number 3, women increasingly play the double-duty of career-woman and mother, which requires significant time on either part. Leaders need to acknowledge that and be bold about it. Unfortunately, "leaning in" does not grant people the power to have it all, but there remains huge pressure to keep up the facade whilst their wellbeing suffers. A culture that makes people feel bad for leaving early to pick the kids up from school is all too common and it's just counterproductive. Embrace technology that lets people dial into meetings from anywhere. That's a start but it's not enough.
At the end of the day, you're responsible for a healthy workplace culture and pushing your company to the next level -- which means having tough conversations and challenging the status quo. Don't just talk the talk -- seek ways to give employees flexibility to accommodate their schedule around their life. Not the other way around.
Ask your leadership team how they're implementing this into each aspect of daily business. Take a really honest look into whether women returning to work from parental leave are missing out on opportunities. It's a tough question to ask but a necessary one: Does becoming a parent create disadvantages in your workplace?

Challenging the status quo puts your company ahead of the game. Forward thinking companies are constantly looking for ways to improve the wellbeing of their organisation. And that's definitely a good thing for your most valuable asset -- people.

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