Greater female representation in senior roles is a critical success factor for tech companies
In light of the significant talent shortage confronting the technology sector, and the added value that women can bring to tech companies, the need to increase female representation in hi-tech is clear. Such a change will boost the number of women founders and entrepreneurs.
Neither a commitment to gender equality, nor the obligation to solve deep-rooted societal ills, none of these are the primary justification for tech companies to integrate more women into their staff, certainly in senior positions, as well as technology roles.
Why then should companies increase female representation on their payroll? Because it’s in their best interest to do so. Because having more women in a company means greater diversity in the way companies think and act, and in how they approach things. This may be a generalization but we see a real impact on businesses when women are more involved at all levels – around sensitivity, practicality, egoless attitude and perhaps even more balanced ambition. Tech companies that include more women on their management teams and within their ranks have greater prospects for long-term success. They will create a stronger, more dynamic bond among workers that – over time – will help companies retain their high quality employees.
Efforts to increase female representation in the tech sector should pave the way for more women in senior positions that extend beyond traditionally female-dominated roles such as HR and finance. Women need to be recruited for senior management and technology roles, which will inevitably result in more female entrepreneurs and startup founders.
The current situation is dire. Only 6% (yes, 6%!) of start-ups in Israel are led by women, and only 14% have a female founder. The proportion of women who hold technology positions in hi-tech companies is just 27% and in management positions at tech companies it is just 23%. In my role at Team8, where I lead investments in startups, of the 500 companies we review annually, just 3% are led by women.
When I started my career in this industry more than two decades ago, I rarely encountered fellow females in my work environment, and certainly not in managerial roles. And even if we draw encouragement from the last ten years where the number of female students studying STEM subjects has increased, we still have far to go. Given the current landscape, it’s clear that greater female representation in the tech sector will be a key factor in helping the Israeli Innovation Authority achieve its recently set goal of increasing the proportion of hi-tech employees to 15% of all employees by 2026.
There are many explanations for the low level of female representation in the tech sector. Among other things, it can be attributed to traditional parental guidance at home, the lack of encouragement female students receive to pursue hard sciences, or the relatively late stage in which they begin learning English (applicable not only to women). Other impediments include social pressure on women to choose family over professional advancement, especially at early stages of their career. And in contrast to the US and other jurisdictions, Israel’s tax policy, which does not grant tax deductions for child daycare expenses, compounds the issue.
Despite all these factors, there are readily available solutions that can improve the situation in a short time frame – and they lie at the doorsteps of the companies themselves. For example, when recruiting for new job openings, companies could define from the outset that women candidates will be short-listed for the role, even if the percentage of women who apply is relatively low. Another potential solution can be found in the context of corporate social responsibility initiatives that have gained momentum in recent years. For example, companies can collaborate with women’s organizations by holding joint initiatives and events to raise awareness and promote thoughtful discourse around this issue.
The goal that we should be setting for ourselves is not just to see more women in hi-tech, but to increase their presence and influence as entrepreneurs, as founders, and senior managers in the industry. Having said that, I am well aware that women are not the only underrepresented demographic in the Israeli tech sector – there are minorities, residents who live in the periphery, and others whose situation is much more complex. Yet, I have no doubt that creating opportunities for any marginalized population can, to a large extent, facilitate a better future for our hi-tech world.
This article was originally published in Hebrew in Globes