If you are the person who is in charge of investing in and growing a company, it is important to be aware that your competition are rapidly powering up their business using digital solutions and technology. You, like many other decision-makers and innovative organisations, need to do everything possible not to stay behind. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030, women can, and will, be critical in leveraging this revolution to benefit our global society. As a decision-maker you have an active role to play here.
Leading companies are seeking innovative solutions with growing urgency. Investing in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) within your organisation is much more than a ‘tick-box’ task or a do-gooder mission. Companies are urgently looking for the right talent to fill emerging sectors, especially in technical areas and many of these struggle to achieve a gender balance. It is proven that diverse, inclusive workplaces are more productive, generate more revenue and attract more diversity, all at the same time. A company whose employees are representative of their customer base, increases value to its shareholders as well.
Out of the top Fortune 500 companies, those with three or more female directors see an increase in the return on investment capital by least 66%, an increased return on equity by at least 53% and an increased return on sales by 42%, which is a great knock-on effect of trying to attain equality.
So what can you do to maximize the benefits of being gender diverse and be future-ready? Here are some concrete ideas to encourage you to be action-driven as every idea you implement that focuses on achieving gender parity in STEM can have a positive effect on your bottom line too.
Showcase your diverse leadership
If you see it, you can be it. When figures such as Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO, mother and thought leader are featured, they inspires young people to go into, and stay in, the tech world. Portrayals of female scientists and engineers in the media have begun to change to showcase their true talents.
But what can you do to encourage more women to get involved in these fields? Regularly review your company website, internal communications, intranet and your company’s marketing campaigns and ads and take stock of what you see. Even within your own office environment. Within the pictures and slogans, it is still common that mostly only male engineers are shown or just men in suits are portrayed as the decision-makers, mentors and achievers. Consider the how women are portrayed in your advertisement – does it reflect the immense leadership and innovation capabilities Be curious about how your brand is perceived by women from the inside and outside and make a concrete effort to feature gender diversity in both your internal and external promotional material. A picture speaks more than a thousand words and it could deter women from applying to your organisation.
Take time to spot potential
There are positions which could be considered ‘hot job’, which are critical to the future success of the company and allow individuals to visibly shine. It is important to take stock of who is going to occupy those hot-jobs in the next 3-6 years. If there are not deserving women in your pipeline it is time to act. Previous studies have shown that often women are selected based on performance and proven record, whereas men are chosen based on their potential. Some of the most successful CEOs in the world admit that they weren’t prepared for that role when they got it. If they had been selected purely on their previous track record, they probably wouldn’t have got the job. Someone saw what they could potentially do for a company, and gave them that role to showcase this. It is imperative to make sure women are treated equitably.
Make sure you are recognising the potential of women too. Identify the ‘hot-jobs’, or mission critical roles, in your company and make sure your promotions cross gender lines. If you think someone has potential include profit and loss responsibility, the ability to manage a considerable amount of reports, the chance to oversee more than one global division or give them high budget responsibility. Make sure you establish metrics that can help you determine a good representation of women in mission-critical roles.
Support women into those roles where necessary, you could introduce high-level sponsorship and a mentoring programme including both male and female peers. Utilise all the HR data available to you to best inform you when making these strategic decisions.
Crush you unconscious biases
We all hold unconscious biases and these can impact on the decisions we make if you do not reflect upon them and try to limit their impact as much as possible, especially in the hiring process. You need to make sure all the actions you carry out are with the support of a diverse team.
Leaders are the first ones who need to look in the mirror and confront any biases to raise their own self-awareness before tackling that of others. Many employees will very often mirror the behaviour of leaders so it is crucial that leaders exhibit the behaviours they expect of others. A brave self-reflection exercise can go a long way.
Schedule regular opportunities to review any unconscious biases your think may be present in your team or departments and use the advice of experts to create a corporate cultural mind-shift. Unconscious biases are not going to be eliminated in a single online course; it’s an ongoing effort that pays off. Inclusion can be tricky to measure but getting the hiring and promotion numbers right is crucial to diversity. To make the most of inclusion qualitative measures encourage transparency and employees to share their feelings and opinions alongside additional community involvement and engagement.
Know your critical mass
McKensey studies and the most recent research made available by Catalyst confirm: the “magic number is 30%” of critical mass, or the “tipping point” at which things start happening. For example, when 30% of a board is women, the company outperforms an all-male board on both return and equity. When a company achieves that percentage of women on the board and at top management level, their stock market value increases and more women will be attracted to purchase from or work at that company.
Empowering the recruitment and promotion of women in STEM is indeed not without its challenges but accessing this diverse talent pool pays off. It will take up time though making a conscious and public commitment to champion equality, identifying and reducing bias in the hiring processes and creating the right policies, will help your organisation become a more diverse and innovative place that will thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.
About the author
Gabriela Mueller Mendoza is an energetic, empowering Coach and Professional Speaker. Prior to becoming an Executive Coach, she was an IT consultant for 12 years in the corporate world, working for some of the largest blue-chips companies. Her work reaches over 80 countries, helps thousands of women in tech giants, engineering corporations, academia and NGOs. She is the author of How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM (£14.99, Panoma Press) which seeks to empower all women in STEM with the tools for success.