Co-Founder of Women in Cloud. I influence brands and entrepreneurs to unlock economic access through digital strategy and partnerships.
It’s been shown that diverse teams, including those with greater gender diversity, are on average more creative and innovative, and ultimately, they are associated with greater profitability. However, as McKinsey & Company notes, “despite the growing number of voices pushing for gender equality across the United States, and many tech companies stating that diversity is a priority, we are not yet seeing concrete gains in the tech industry.”
Women-led technology businesses face significant barriers when it comes to economic access. In 2018, female technology founders brought in just 2.2% of U.S. venture capital dollars.
While women in the technology sector were behind in the race for economic opportunities before the Covid-19 outbreak, the recent pandemic-related restrictions have had devastating economic and emotional impacts, pushing them even further to the back. According to a recent survey we conducted with Microsoft, women-led technology businesses are expected to lose between $1.5 million and $5 million in revenue and opportunities as a result of Covid-19.
Now more than ever, we need to increase economic access and leadership opportunities for women-led technology companies to support their recovery and growth. Here are four ways corporations, businesses and the private sector can improve economic access for women technology founders and their companies and support their recovery from — and growth beyond — the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlocking Procurement Opportunities For Women Technology Founders
Many mistakenly assume that market competition and anti-discrimination legislation address any improper biases in contracting and procurement. However, only 1% of women technology entrepreneurs win contracts.
In order to improve women-led technology companies’ chances of securing high-level contracts, businesses and governments alike must unlock procurement vehicles to make them more accessible to women tech founders.
One way to do this is by removing the language biases that commonly exist in procurement contracts in order to be more gender-inclusive, thereby becoming more inviting and attainable to women technology leaders. According to the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, gender-sensitive procurement is one important way to advance gender equality and women’s rights in local, national and international economies. Businesses and governments should implement gender-responsive procurement policies and practices that can significantly and systematically redress gender inequalities.
Similarly, organizations could consider reducing insurance quotes and certification requirements to increase the breadth in the accessibility of procurement vehicles and eliminate barriers to women technology professionals. Broadening the requirements and increasing readiness associated with procurement opportunities can increase the number of women applicants.
Lastly, government and businesses could also invite women tech leaders to supplier events and/or source and pilot technology from women-owned or women-led businesses. Giving women in technology a platform to showcase their products and services can increase the visibility and professional credibility they need to extend their reach and exposure to potential investors, buyers and other economic opportunities.
Legislation And Private Sector Support For Women In Technology
Cities and states should pass proclamations, remove gender bias through contracting and unwriting women entrepreneurs such as Canada unwrote many companies to access the Women In Cloud enterprise-ready accelerator.
The World Economic Forum also notes that it’s “crucial that the tech industry has the support of government and policy-makers at a national and global level, and that efforts are made to collaborate in supporting and encouraging more women into tech and AI roles and careers.”
While this support is crucial at a federal level, there is also an increasing need for localized support. For example, in January 2020, Olympia, Washington, passed the Women in Cloud Proclamation, and the state legislature endorsed and acknowledged the initiatives that the city undertook.
Increase Representation And Participation In Executive Leadership Opportunities
As the World Economic Forum noted, “there is an essential need for female leadership to help achieve a truly balanced workforce across the technology industry.” Businesses can support the increase of representation and participation of women in technology by providing them with access and the ability to participate in leadership opportunities with budget and decision-making authority.
Businesses can support women in tech by underwriting their participation in skill development programs and events or by offering women technology professionals public speaking roles that will advance their career journey.
Another great way to increase the representation of women technology professionals in leadership opportunities is to include women on your corporate boards. The Harvard Business Review noted that “on January 1, California law said that all locally headquartered publicly traded companies must have at least one female director by 2020,” adding that “Norway, Spain, France and Iceland all have laws requiring that women comprise at least 40% of boards at publicly listed companies.”
Hiring And Promoting Women In Leadership Roles
A 2015 study by Quantopian (via Fortune) found that women-led Fortune 1000 companies performed three times better than S&P 500 companies with male CEOs. Despite this, however, just 42% of startups have at least one woman in an executive position, and only 40% have at least one woman on the board of directors, according to Silicon Valley Bank’s Women in U.S. Technology Leadership 2020 report. In order to increase these statistics, businesses should hire and promote more women into leadership roles within the tech industry.
However, it’s important to note that hiring and promoting women technology professionals to leadership positions must come with equitable compensation. It is not enough just to give women leadership titles; we must ensure they are duly compensated for their hard work and dedication.
Providing women technology entrepreneurs with the economic access and connections they need to succeed is in the best interest of the technology industry as a whole. The solutions outlined above are easy to implement and can contribute to more women filling leadership positions in tech companies, receiving crucial economic access to win enterprise opportunities and impacting the tech industry for a more equitable and prosperous future.
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