It's 2017, yet women still face discrimination in many aspects. In the tech industry alone, which supposedly takes the lead in disrupting traditional business models, discrimination towards women is even more prominent with numerous scandals and glaring gender inequality in the workplace. Startups have the opportunity to recognize the benefits of gender diversity at the outset.
Gender Diversity Drives Innovation and Competitiveness
Research underscore the value of gender diversity in driving innovation and competitiveness. Mckinsey's 2015 article states that the potentials of full women representation in the workforce adds up to $28 trillion globally, equivalent to China and the U.S. economies combined. Mckinsey highlights that more gender-diverse companies outperform others by 15%.
MIT and Carnegie Mellon researchers found that teams that included women were more successful at logical analysis, coordination planning, and problem solving. Recently, Peterson Institute found that 30% female representation on company boards could raise its net margin up to six percentage points.
Current State of Women in the Workplace
While the benefits of gender diversity are obvious to organizations, statistics show gaps in its implementation. According to an analysis of the companies in the S&P 500 in the U.S., women hold only 19% of board positions; in Europe, where legislative and voluntary targets are in place, it's 33%. In tech boards, only 8% are women.
Risks Women Face as a Result of Inequality
Although women representation is on the rise, women still face many issues about their presence in the workplace. A recent NY Times article discusses the challenges like gender bias, sexual harassment, as well as misrepresentation on company boards, more so in technology. Only recently, a watershed of cases involving U.S. tech firms shocked the world. Lack of gender diversity from mid-level management upward contributes to this situation.
Global issues arising from gender diversity such as blocked economic potential, loss of legal rights, poor political representation, and incidence of violence further contribute to gender disparity more so in the disparate treatment of women compared to men.
Solutions to Tackle Bias and Close the Gap
Females remain at the lean end of the spectrum, and any company not taking gender parity seriously is turning a blind eye to its benefits: innovation, increased competitiveness and thus revenue, and workforce wellbeing. Companies that claim to have a diversity and inclusion policy should consider female participation a strategic imperative and not just an agenda on the side.
The time for change outward and within is ripe for companies. To achieve greater gender sensitivity, any action should involve men and women alike. Company boards can align their vision with their distribution and inclusion agenda, employ active and measurable approaches, and not need to think that gender parity will resolve all issues.
Men can step up their role by becoming mentors and endorsing females to their networks, while considering diversity in their teams a critical factor when unconscious bias impacts decision-making.
Women should move forward and take charge of their careers, seeking mentors and networking more. While on track, females need to avoid typical pitfalls: denying self-promotion, falling into the loyalty trap, or needlessly staying on course in a conflict or negotiation.
Salesforce takes a leading approach in ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and has defined a cultural framework based on quality. It not only publishes annual diversity numbers; it also sets up communities, utilizing listening tools, and conducting active outside dialogues to ensure alignment with its strategy, brand, and actions.
The tech industry is best placed to make change happen, considering its critical role in digitalization and disruption, the use of an innovative approach, the blank canvas setup, and tools spearheaded by these companies, and through data and statistics upgrade, will set the right example in raising current awareness of gender diversity and address any inequality in the workplace.
Women have a reason to look forward to becoming independent, being less dependent on their spouses, and to be secure in their own investments, assured that they help close the gaps in technology, salary, promotion, and work opportunity brought about by gender discrimination.
 Science Mag. (2016). Evidence For A Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups. [online] Available at: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/330/6004/686 [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].
 EY. (2016). New Research From The Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY Reveals Significant Correlation Between Women in Corporate Leadership and Profitability.” [online] Available at: http://www.ey.com/US/en/Newsroom/News-releases/news-ey-new-research-from-the-peterson-institute-for-international-economics-and-ey-reveals-significant-correlation-between-women-in-corporate-leadership-and-profitability [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].
 Fast Company. (2017). The SoFi Sex Scandal Highlights How Hard It Is For Women In Fintech. [online] Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/40468776/the-sofi-sex-scandal-highlights-how-hard-it-is-for-women-in-fintech [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].
 EY. (2017). Women in industry. [online] Available at: http://www.ey.com/gl/en/issues/business-environment/ey-women-in-industry#the-data-disconnect [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].
Patricia is the Founder of Reed Estate. She is a results-driven and strategic technology sales, business development, and sales management professional adept at driving innovative technical solutions, advising C-level executives on business transformation and technology integrations, and developing and mentoring teams to provide exceptional customer outcomes and consistently exceed expectations. Patricia enjoys helping clients improve business functions to drive revenue growth. With an established record of overseeing large-scale transformation projects, and building and developing high-performance teams, she possesses strong technology, presentation, and leadership skills. She has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, Africa and North America. Patricia holds an MBA degree in Business Management from UCLA Anderson School of Management and the National University of Singapore (Joint Program).