This is the year for women to step up in leadership roles. These are the women who have a vision for diversity in their company whether in comes in the form of people, technology, transformation, or innovation. These are the individuals that understand companies that lead, and lead by change. And change requires transformation and innovation. And innovation requires diversity. You get the picture.
These individuals have taken a big swath across their industry to help create a diverse leadership effort in order to move the needle forward—especially in the IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence), security, and other emerging tech arenas within key verticals.
For more than a decade now the U.S. Dept. of Labor has been reporting numbers that women make up less than 50% of the workforce and hold under 25% of the IT (information technology) positions. Globally, we see the Council of Foreign Relations publishes a Women’s Power Index, determining where women around the world lead in government. Here’s a look at the numbers: 19 out of 193 countries have a female head of state or government; 14 out of 193 countries have at least 50% women in the national cabinet; and four out of 193 countries have at least 50% of women in the national legislature. The World Economic Forum also provides a glimpse into disparity, publishing the Global Gender Gap Index. In 2020, the Global Gender Gap score stands at 68.6%, which means the gap is narrower, and the remaining gap to close is now 31.4%. There is still quite a bit of work to be done.
Despite these weak numbers, women are making progress. The World Economic Forum shows that this year the progress has not only been larger than in the previous edition of the Global Gender Gap, but also more widespread. Out of the 149 countries and economies covered, 101 have improved their score and 48 have seen performance unchanged or reduced. Women continue to prove they have the necessary skillsets as well as the ability to juggle the societal demands to help shape 2020 and beyond, all-in-all making shareholders happy with their investments and looking to the future for bigger and better things to come.
Consider this example: Earlier this year, amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, a similar headline circulated on many of the big news sites. The general gist is this: many countries led by women have fared better against coronavirus.
Now it is important to note there were a number of theories on why this was the case that don’t necessarily have to do with gender. For one, women have historically been marginalized in leadership roles and, as the theory goes, those who rose to power feel less constrained by traditional methods. Another theory goes that the presence of a female leader tends to signal that a country has more inclusive political values and diverse perspectives—which is essential to combat crisis.
This is just one case for women in leadership. Research conducted by Harvard Business Review shows women tend to score higher than men in most leadership skills, which includes resilience, taking initiative, practicing self-development, displaying high integrity and honesty, inspiring and motivating others, building relationships, bold leadership, being a champion of change, establishing stretch goals, collaboration and teamwork, connecting to the outside world, communicating powerfully and prolifically, solving problems and analyzing issues, leadership speed, and, even, yes, innovation.
In general, women tend to be humble, empathic, truthful, decisive, bringing something unique to the role of leader. No matter the reason, there is one big conclusion to takeaway: We need more women in leadership. 2020 is the year.
The good news is we have made strides in the right direction. In 2019, 29% of senior management roles were held by women, which is the highest number on record, and 87% of global businesses have at least one woman in a senior management role, according to Catalyst. However, if we dig even deeper, we are still in desperate need of more women to fill leadership roles in technology and innovation, let alone the digital transformation space. The proportion of women in senior leadership is still disproportionate. While roughly 43% of human resources directors are women, only 16% are chief information officers.
Some of the key barriers that still need to be addressed are old stereotypes, fewer connections, bias and discrimination, and lack of flexibility, according to AAUW. Once we address some of these and close the leadership gap, we will experience the benefits of having women in leadership roles quickly AAUW suggests we should examine our own biases and seek out skill-building opportunities and leadership training; while organizations should prioritize an equitable workplace, support internal growth opportunities, continued professional development and skill training, and equitable retention and promotion policies, and promote workplace flexibility policies that will enable all employees to find an appropriate work/life balance. In fact, as we have seen with the recent shelter-in-place mandate, they actually forced many individuals to self-examine some of their own personal pressures, anxieties, and even biases, say experts.
Another way to close the leadership gap is for everyone to recognize the role that women are currently playing in their industries and to look to them as influencers and role models for the next generation of young leaders. The Women of Technology Awards list, now in its eighth year, is comprised of powerful, smart changemakers. These women are trailblazers and innovators who are chosen because they each bring a unique lens to their respective companies helping push innovation forward unleashing economic wealth as a result.
Let’s celebrate the 2020 Women of Technology.