We delve into the reasons why it is crucial that men are included in the push for gender parity in the tech sector, featuring insights from Executive Agile Coach Paul Klipp, an attendee at last year's European Women in Technology.
“Gender equality is in the interest of countries, of companies, and of men, and their children and their partners,” stated sociologist Michael Kimmel during his TEDWomen 2015 talk. It is not “a zero-sum game. It is not a win-lose. It is a win-win for everyone. And what we also know is we cannot fully empower women and girls unless we engage boys and men.” The ‘zero-sum’ mentality is just one reason why many men do not concern themselves with gender diversity issues. It derives from a fear that diversity and inclusion in the workplace will lead to them being displaced.
Kimmel's words echo a growing feeling in the technology sector, where men occupy 76% of computer science jobs and, according to Mercer’s most recent findings, are paid 25% more than women in high-tech companies. Statistics from Women Who Tech reveal that 82% of men in the field believe that their company spends too much time focused on diversity, whereas 40% of women think their employer does not spend enough time addressing the issue. The notion that gender diversity will negatively affect men is a myth. To alter this ‘zero-sum’ attitude, men need to be invited into the gender diversity conversation. By doing this, they will be made aware of the personal and professional benefits of gender equality.
Whilst some men are opposed to gender diversity, many more are indifferent to the cause. Dispelling this apathy will lead to tangible industry change – only once those in power choose to speak for those who can’t, will the tech sector improve its gender parity figures. To initiate this, indifferent male tech workers need to recognise that they should be taking part in the dialogue. If you are a man reading this, then you are taking the first step.
Bill Proudman, CEO of White Men as Full Diversity Partners, uses the analogy of men in the workplace being like fish in a fishbowl to explain this. “The hard work for men is noticing and acknowledging that we have a distinct culture that is often the dominant one in most organisations and that that culture impacts everyone’s behaviour. Like fish who never have to leave the fishbowl, we don't see our own culture. We are surrounded by it, especially at work,” he says.
This goes further than the tech industry. Only 41% of men surveyed by the Gloria Cordes Larson Center for Women and Business (CWB) at Bentley University in 2017 said they had publicly advocated for a woman, with 21% admitting they had never advocated or acted as an ally. Men leaving the fishbowl, i.e. involving themselves with groups that do not (on the surface) represent their own interests, is so important. Once they are involved and realise the influence that their support can have in promoting the role of women in technology, substantial change will occur.
With the United Nation’s HeForShe campaign creating a global impact, as well as distinguished public figures, like former US president Barack Obama, declaring their support for feminism, the time is now to act as a gender diversity ally in the corporate arena. There is more than just a moral imperative involved in the desire for equality. There are multiple, even quantifiable, reasons why women and men should be on a level playing field.
What are the benefits of diversity in the workplace?
Women have a significant impact on the success of a tech company. Research shows that female-led technology businesses achieve, on average, a 35% higher return on investment than those run by men. Despite receiving 50% less venture capital funding, findings reveal that women leaders in tech are bringing in 20% more revenue than their male counterparts. It is also worth noting that female minds influence the success of tech patents. A National Center for Women & Information Technology study found that software patents produced by mixed-gender teams were cited 30-40% more than similar patents from all-male groups.
In all industries, gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform above the national industry median. Furthermore, a 2011 diversity report by Catalyst found that companies with the most female board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales by 16% and return on invested capital by 26%.
Women also influence global growth. Raising female employment levels would increase GDP significantly – a report from McKinsey Global Institute estimates $12 trillion by 2025. Increasing the labour force participation of women accounts for 54% of potential incremental GDP and shifting women into higher-productivity sectors, like technology, would add a further 23%.
There are many personal benefits for men and millennials know this
Employees are getting much younger, according to corporate gender strategist Jeffery Tobias Halter. In America, there are “10,000 boomers a day leaving the workforce”. Of the new entries into the labour pool, 85% are women and minorities. Indeed, there is a business case for diversity – millennials are unlikely to want to work for companies that do not represent their values.
Of the millennial men entering the workforce, reports highlight that most are more aligned with women's concerns about gender bias than previous generations. They are much more likely than their predecessors to be part of a dual-income home where child-rearing responsibilities are shared. Of the men surveyed, it was also found that they are more likely to adapt their behaviour to support female co-workers.
Indeed, older men are often dismissive of the personal benefits of gender equality. Freedom to share financial responsibilities with a partner, more rewarding relationships with female co-workers, the chance to be more involved in the lives of their children and better health, both psychological and physical, are just a handful of the positives. Paving the way for successful women in tech is key to keeping the future workforce content.
Tech is designed for men and it's dangerous
More female minds are needed to design technology. There have been several instances where women have not been considered in the conception of a new piece of tech. Considering the fact that women are more likely to buy tech products than men, the industry is missing out on a goldmine. For example, early AI speech recognition software struggled to recognise women's voices as it was programmed by men. Of course, this is something women could do without – it's when technology becomes the difference between life and death that gender bias is an issue.
Initial developments in the field of heart transplants left women behind. Artificial hearts are pieces of technology powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are three times heavier than an actual human heart. Just 20% of women were compatible with the artificial hearts designed back in 2013, whereas 86% of men qualified for an artificial heart transplant.
When airbags were initially introduced into cars, evidence showed that women and children were injured disproportionately in comparison to men. The reason for this was that all the tests had been carried out on male-sized crash dummies. It took three decades for a 'female' crash dummy to be introduced.
Female voices in the field will, therefore, minimise blind spots, making new tech safer for half of the population. This unique perspective also offers tech industries the chance to cash in on new markets, with women highlighting niches that men may not be aware of.
How can men help to promote women in the tech world?
Attend a Women in Tech conference
The best way for men to help promote powerful women in technology is to show solidarity – attending a Women in Technology World Series conference demonstrates this. These events are an opportunity for male allies to learn about the topics affecting women in their sector in addition to acknowledging their own privilege and unconscious biases. Hearing personal stories is the best way to digest information and build empathy. After attending, men are more likely to become champions of women in their sector.
The Women in Technology World Series also offers extensive opportunities for networking and the chance for male tech workers to find a mentee. Female mentorship in the workplace is more important than ever in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Senior men are becoming increasingly resistant to the idea of mentoring women, which is cutting off opportunities for young female professionals. Without the support of senior men, women are going to struggle to climb the corporate ladder – they need someone fighting their corner. Mentorship works both ways, it is as beneficial to the mentee as it is the mentor.
Furthermore, traditional networks yield traditional hires and the Women in Technology World Series is an excellent opportunity for recruiters to tap into the business opportunities female tech workers offer.
We spoke to Paul Klipp, a male attendee from European Women in Technology who has shared his thoughts on the importance of promoting women in the sector. Here’s what he had to say.
What is your reaction to the fact that only 15% of employees working in STEM roles in the UK are female?
The number of women who are highly successful in STEM roles proves that there is no psychological or biological factor preventing women from excelling, so there must be cultural and systemic impediments that are dramatically reducing the number of women who aspire to and succeed in STEM careers. That's a massive amount of brain power not being utilized for the good of society and the economy. Where systemic and cultural inhibitors can be identified, it's in everyone's interests to remove them so that every person can achieve their full potential.
What can men do to help improve diversity in the workplace?
Men play a crucial role in improving workplace diversity. Many of them have the positional power to question the procedures and rules that affect hiring and advancement inside of their organizations. Simple things like having diversity policies, reducing gender bias in recruitment and interviewing practices, and encouraging contractors to do the same are easy for men in senior positions. Even men without positional power have the advantage of benefiting from cultural biases about what power looks like. An angry man is passionate while an angry woman is unstable. A man can raise his voice to make a point while a woman doing the same would risk censure. Men can use that power in the workplace to ensure that women's' ideas are heard, that women get credit for their work and thoughts, and that women who exercise leadership in non-traditional ways are respected. In male-dominated spaces, like boardrooms and IT departments, gender diversity can only be achieved through men's efforts.
Why are women crucial to the continued growth of the tech sector?
A friend once asked me why I'm not more concerned about the lack of female truck drivers. My answer was that if I owned a logistics company, and I had more work than I could handle because it was difficult and expensive to find drivers, and I noticed that 85% of the drivers were men, then I'd be asking myself why women aren't applying to drive my trucks. If I needed sober, dependable people who are good drivers and enjoy solitude, it would boggle my mind that there are no women applying. Solving that problem would be the easiest way to dramatically grow my business. That's exactly the position I'm in as a manager in IT. Some of my best programmers are women, so I know women can code, but when I look for programmers, 90% of the applicants are men. With the IT sector booming, and already hitting crippling labour shortages in many areas, identifying and eliminating anything keeping almost half of the population from joining the tech sector workforce should be our most pressing issue.
Men becoming more sympathetic to and understanding of gender diversity issues is essential to the future of technology. Not only is there a moral imperative to help achieve equality but doing so will improve business, make the world a safer place and personally benefit men.
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