What’s Happening In 2073?
53 years from now, according to a recent IBM Institute for Business Value study, women will reach leadership parity with men, assuming the current pace of female advancement into senior ranks.
The stakes couldn’t be higher to bring women into technology leadership far faster than more than half a century away. When leadership teams don’t include their gender, women in the workplace struggle to be heard, and their companies struggle to keep up with the rapid innovations in the industry.
How can we make 2073 arrive far earlier? Recognize the leadership imbalance, understand why it exists, and take specific steps to move women technologists into leadership.
A Stark Imbalance
The statistics are alarming for business in general and Information Technology in particular.
The same IBM study notes that even though women comprise half of the world’s population, they make up only 18% of senior-level positions. Harvard Business Review research from June 2019 notes that only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women.
Fortune magazine’s June 2019 Brainstorm Finance conference reports that in 2018 women comprised only 14% of executive committees in technology companies. A Boston Consulting Group 2018 study found that less than 3% of investor funding had gone to women-led tech startups in the two previous years.
Why Aren’t There More Female Tech Leaders?
It’s not lack of capability. The June 2019 HBR research found that “women scored at a statistically significantly higher level than men on the vast majority of leadership competencies we measured.”
“Women make highly competent leaders,” the study’s authors concluded. “What’s holding them back is not lack of capability but a dearth of opportunity.”
Why is opportunity lacking? A March 2019 study by Peakon, a platform for measuring and improving employee engagement, offers a concise answer: “Diversity hiring without inclusion isn’t enough.”
Take Specific Steps
Start at the top.
“Significant change has to come from the top,” asserts Sally Krawcheck, head of a digital finance advisory for women, in a June 2019 Fortune interview. Admittedly frustrated with the slow pace of change, she urges dramatic action. CEOs need to “break the wheel.”
Create a culture of inclusion.
This includes talking openly about unconscious bias, reexamining paid leave policies, auditing pay practices, and looking seriously at whether women are treated as valued team members, offered true stretch assignments, recognized for their contributions, and encouraged to seek promotions early in their careers.
Invest in formal sponsorship programs.
Mentoring is a popular tool, but “sponsorships, rather than mentoring, are the most appropriate way for women with substantial achievement to rise to the top,” says Betty Spence, president of the National Association for Female Executives and Entrepreneurs. What’s the difference? According to the Center for Creative Leadership, “A sponsor is not just another person in your network. It’s someone who has the power and knowledge to recommend you.” A formal program helps ensure accountability in these relationships.
When women technologists are brought into tech company leadership, everyone benefits. Says Rachel Thompson of Peakon, “Diverse leadership can be positively transformative to all.”