Gender diversity boosts ICT bottom line

There is an urgent need for companies in the ICT industry to address gender diversity.

This is according to Lindy Stephens, global director of people operations at ThoughtWorks, who notes achieving gender diversity in the ICT working environment contributes to improved business revenue.

"The ICT industry worldwide is ever-changing and it is imperative the industry is made up of bright, determined, enthused and inspired individuals who have equal opportunities, irrespective of their gender."

There is a need to speed up the gender diversity pace by encouraging more women to be interested in technology and take up ICT courses – very few companies have done so successfully, says Stephens.

Some of the challenges women face in the industry include the work-family conflict, general misconceptions regarding women in the labour force, traditional and cultural stereotyping, as well as a lack of role models in the field, says Tascha Hermann, MD of Green Grass Consulting.

"SA is not yet a first world country, and as such, the approach to women in roles that have always been considered male can sometimes be a little backwards."

The key to getting women to seek employment in the ICT industry is to face the stereotypes and challenges head-on, she says. The process starts by giving access to technology and a focus on integration of ICT skills across all curriculums, Hermann adds.

Women must be empowered to embrace the field, and also companies must be educated about the wealth of having dynamic and passionate employees – no matter their gender, she notes.

Caroline Matsimela, lead recruiter at ThoughtWorks, points out gender diversity cannot be solved by just inspiring young women to go into ICT.

Corporate culture plays an important role in any existing gender imbalance; the stigma that ICT is a man's world needs to change, she adds.

Matsimela says ICT companies should invest in developing women and create an environment that will retain them, adding the hiring of women in all roles of an organisation should be planned.

She states most corporate organisations do not create an environment where they value and embrace gender diversity. As a result, they lose the skill to the competitor.

Matsimela explains when teams are diverse – representing different gender and cultures – they generate broad ideas and solutions that add value for the business.

According to a McKinsey report, there is a significant relationship between a more diverse leadership and better financial performance.

Businesses with the most gender-diverse leadership are more likely to report financial returns above their national industry median, says McKinsey.

It also revealed more diverse companies – those with a greater share of women and ethnic groups – are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision-making.

Anne Bouverot, director-general at the GSM Association, says the ongoing debate about gender diversity in the workplace is not about ethics, but rather business.

She believes diversity offers a better understanding of customer needs, a greater range of creative thinking, and fresh ideas that challenge established practices. Also, it is a way to maximise the potential talent pool and, ultimately, to positively impact the bottom line, says Bouverot.

"Gender diversity clearly continues to represent not only a key challenge, but a significant opportunity for the future of the ICT industry. Governments and policymakers, alongside industry stakeholders, should play their part in creating sustainable gender diversity in the ICT industry."

Source: IT Web