Diversity & Inclusion, Technology

What is the Point of Diversity in Technology? Hint: It’s Not What You Think

In March, we celebrate Women’s History Month, but every day, women shape the world of technology as we know it. It’s a lesser-known fact that the first computer programmer was a female mathematician, and the first computers were not machines but mostly women who were also quite adept at math. Fast-forward to the present day, and the share of female CEOs in tech is on a positive trajectory, jumping from 3.9% in 2020 to 10.9% in 2021.

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Indeed, we’ve made progress toward gender parity, but we still have a long way to go.

The tech sector continues to be dominated by men, lagging behind the rest of the employment market when it comes to hiring women. For many women who choose technology as a career path, myself included, they are often the only ones of their gender in the room.

The pandemic has potentially compounded the gender gap due to job churn among women and some leaving the workforce entirely. According to a study from AnitaB.org, which analyzed data on more than half a million technologists at 56 companies, the total representation of women technologists decreased 2.1 percentage points to 26.7% in January 2021 from 28.8% in March 2020.

Why Diversity Matters

Building a more diverse workforce is critical in tech but not just because it’s the right thing to do. One of my biggest pet peeves is a scenario in which a group of all males are working together, and one says, “We need a woman on the team,” as if it were a box that needs to be checked.

Diversity is so much more than simply complying with policies and achieving metrics. It is an integral part of a company’s business model and a source of competitive advantage.

Diverse teams are more innovative and productive than homogenous groups. They create better products that take all potential users into consideration, not just one segment of the market. Indeed, diversity goes beyond gender to include race, ethnicity, age, expression, beliefs, and other acquired traits.

Business leaders need to make a conscious commitment to embracing diversity as a core value and to building organizational teams based on skills, character, and potential. They want people to not only complement each other but also challenge one another to leave their comfort zones. I’ve seen firsthand that this is how many of the best ideas and innovations come to life.

Bottom Line: Diversity Is Good for Business

Research has repeatedly shown that organizational diversity and business performance go hand in hand. A 2019 McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the lowest quartile. And this relationship has strengthened over time, increasing from 21% in 2017 and 15% in 2014.

The gains were even more significant for diversity in ethnicity, with the same study showing that top-quartile companies outperformed those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability.

Illustrating how diversity helps foster innovation, a BCG study found that companies with more diverse leadership teams reported higher innovation revenue than organizations with below-average leadership diversity. The share of total revenue that came from products and services launched within the past 3 years was 45% for diverse companies versus only 26% for less diverse companies.

Diversity isn’t just a buzzword. It generates more, if not better, ideas and uncovers creative solutions to complex problems. It’s what separates the winners from the laggards. If it isn’t already, diversity should be a strategic priority for your business.

Svenja de Vos is Chief Technology Officer at Leaseweb Global.