Four Men for Every Woman

Thoughts on the Gender in Technology Conversation
Samantha Feldman

The ‘gender in tech’ conversation went into full swing in 2014 following Google’s release of their diversity data. Firms large and small followed suit, and the message around women in technology was remarkably similar at each one: of the 20 companies that released this data point, not a single one reported more than 33% women, and 14 of the 20 didn’t crack 20% (that’s only 1 in 5 employees).  Check out the graph below, and you can hover over the bars for additional detail. 

Is this just ‘how it is’?  The value of more diverse companies.

For every coworker who enthusiastically sees the inherent value of gender equality initiatives (and other forms of diversity in the workplace), there is another who grumbles ‘what’s the point?’  To start with the easy one, there is the financial reason, summed up best in a McKinsey study that looked at 366 public companies in 2014 –

“The companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 percent more likely to have financial returns that were above their national industry median.” 

This financial finding is also backed up here, here, and here (and these were within just the first five search results).

What may drive this financial success?  This is summed up by best by Brian Welle, director of People Analytics at Google, in his video on unconscious bias at work:

“Complex decision making, innovation […] are better when we have diversity represented […].  And it’s not only the [diverse] person who contributes something unique - research shows that everybody else contributes something unique.  You act differently in a diverse group than you will in a group of people exactly like yourself.  You will overemphasize the qualities that you have in common when all of you are the same, and you’ll feel freer to express something that’s different when you have different people in the group.”  

I think the go-to understanding when it comes to diversity is that the ‘diverse’ person is the one that brings the new perspective, and those in the majority learn from it.  The argument made here is that it’s not just a one way street - having someone different in a room forces everyone to think differently. 

At Gray Scalable, we find that creative and innovative leaders are thinking about diversity at ever earlier stages of development. Some companies are recruiting with an emphasis on gender diversity in engineering and other teams, as well as diversity of leadership, even at their first big investment growth phase.   In our view, no time is too early to start, because it's much better to avoid the gender diversity issue than to have to fix the problem later.

Coming up, we’ll discuss the stats on women in leadership roles.