For many years, engineering, IT and the sciences were primarily considered male-only territory, and men the only purveyors of entrepreneurial and leadership qualities. In reality, women have long made important contributions to those fields – Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Radia Perlman, and Nasa’s ‘Hidden Figures’ to name but a few – however in most cases they remained backstage, and were not recognized on the same level as their male counterparts. As a result, the ‘technology sector’, as it was once known, long seemed arcane and impenetrable to many of those on the outside (- read most women).
In an important twist, technology is today driving a profound and positive transformation, shaking up deep-rooted business, economic and social codes. In fact, in a world where digital is all-pervasive, our daily lives are now almost unrecognizable compared to 50 years ago.
In this context - where the next generation of girls will likely code quicker than they write - there is much optimism. Technology is creating opportunities for women that we previously could not have imagined; when I consider Fortune’s latest ‘Most Powerful Women in Business List’, in which 9 of the 50 women are in tech, I realize just how far we’ve come in that time.
Part of this progress can be attributed to diversity programs within international organizations, created with the objective of hiring and retaining the best female talents. The most successful of those will ensure buy-in from top management, as well as promote commitment to gender diversity as part of the overall company culture, today and in future.
The notion of future is important due to the pipeline challenge: it’s a sizeable task to change attitudes towards women that have been ingrained for centuries, and as such it takes nearly 40 years of progress to really shift the needle. In this way, it is crucial to ensure serious commitment and investment in the long term. Organizations that drop diversity during periods of economic and financial difficulty will find themselves left behind by those who have continually embraced it.
Indeed, these trailblazers will win out in the long term when it comes to “best of breed” performance, creativity, design and leadership. Diverse teams bring comprehensive opinions, ideas and perspectives. The increasing need to mirror society, and reflect the requirements of all customers and partners will also, in the long term, be crucial to future-proofing our businesses.