A Culture Of Inclusion Or Exclusion? You Do The Math.

According to the US Bureau of Statistics, by 2014, over 50% of the workforce will be employed in businesses that are creating or employing IT.  Current workforce statistics show us that women are now 56% of the workforce; and that representation is going to continue to increase.  So, with more women in entering the workforce than men, how can business and HR executives still be talking about diversity, namely gender diversity, in the workforce?  With women as the majority of the working population, isn’t gender diversity an old topic??  The short answer:  No, it’s not.

Well… at least not in the IT industries.  Why?  The numbers speak for themselves.  Although the number of women in the workforce continues to increase, women remain underrepresented in the technology workforce, particularly in technology, senior management and executive positions.  We women may represent the largest population of users of technology (or at least an equal number) at home or at work by the share number of us walking this earth, but the people who make that technology are mostly men.  Take a look at the decision makers in technology-intensive industries:  Women hold only 10% of upper-level management positions and only 3% of the executive IT positions.  Developer communities are no different.  Only 18% of the SAP Developer community are women.

And, it’s just not big business where there is a discrepancy between the people who use and buy technology and those who produce it.  My good friend, Sharon Vosmek, CEO of ASTIA (check them out:  www.astia.org) leads a community of 1,100 male and female advisors, including 300 former and current CEOs and 200 investors, dedicated to the success of women-led, high growth ventures (high tech, clean tech, etc.).  Here’s what she sees in the world of entrepreneurs who are leading the way for new innovations that large companies can’t spend time on:  Despite the fact that 48% of all entrepreneurs globally are women, only 9.4% of angel investments in technology-intensive start-ups was given to women entrepreneurs. And, only 8% of venture-based technology start-ups are founded by women.

The cultural constructs of the technology industry – large enterprises or the entrepreneurial ecosystem – are male defined.  Men started industry and the measurements of success, the way business is conducted, how decisions are made are all male-defined.  And, look, no one loves the guys more than me.  Heck, the majority of my mentors are men.  And, yes, some of my best friends are men… but we need to be practical.  Times, they are ‘a changing and that means we have to change too.

Take for example the changing demographics of the workforce. The implications of an aging and more diverse U.S. workforce indicate that businesses may be less equipped to fill knowledge-driven positions. In the next several years, women will continue to enter the workforce increasing numbers and analysis expect the women will stay in the workforce for a significant portion of their adult lives. With the exception of self-employed workers, employees in technology organizations tend to reach executive status through promotion in the ranks. The lack of women in technology executive positions could be an indicator that women are not entering the field or not staying in the technology industry.

Look, this isn’t about best woman or best man for the job.  This is about best person.  And, you can’t get the best person if you don’t have a culture of inclusion;  a culture that accepts (demands!) and includes the best talent.  As the workforce continues to age and retirement rates increases, gaps in the talent pool for the fulfillment of leadership positions may inhibit business innovation and growth.  Executives have responded by creating development programs aimed at building diversity the talent pool available for current and future job openings.  And, if you don’t have the best and brightest able to get funding for their innovative ideas, well, then you won’t get the best and brightest innovative ideas – you won’t get the next VMWare.   And, in an industry that requires innovation to thrive, not to live, don’t we deserve the best and the brightest?

 

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About the author
Patti
Patti
Patti’s blog is a mishmash of research and advocacy mixed with her personal experiences as technology executive and first-time high growth entrepreneur, working mother, and wannabe athlete.

6 Comments

Kory

2011-12-05 06:41:44 Reply

Of the panoply of website I’ve pored over this has the most veaircty.

Mary Kaye Richardson

2011-08-26 01:13:47 Reply

I agree with the post – and will share with my students looking for post secondary options!

    puttingtheseatdown

    2011-08-26 02:16:47 Reply

    Patti

    Hi Mary Kaye,
    Thank you for your comment! I would LOVE to hear from your students. Do they see limitations in technology as an option for a potential career? What do they think working in technology would be like?

    Thanks!
    Patti

greg misiorek (@greg_not_so)

2011-08-25 19:55:08 Reply

hi there,

while i also see the existing under-representation of women in technology and business, i cannot see how promoting this or any other underrepresented group (based on national origin, race, ethnicity, etc.) can work hand in hand with innovation and merit as they are put forward in the market place of today.

we don’t want to promote one group to the exclusion of others, but we also cannot allow all groups at once to be affirmed by means other than business and customer satisfaction.

my 2 cents.

    puttingtheseatdown

    2011-08-25 20:01:26 Reply

    Patti

    Hi Greg,
    thanks for the comment and I 100% agree. The best person for the job is the person who delivers for the business, the customer, and whatever else the target is. Just as I said in the post – this isn’t about best man or best woman. It’s not about promoting one group over the other. This is about getting a talent pool who is the best at delivering business value, customer value, etc.

    Julie Lenzer Kirk

    2011-08-26 12:33:46 Reply

    I totally agree that there shouldn’t necessaryily be any ‘special treatment’. The challenge is to understand WHY women are opting out of technology and encouraging them to come to the party. After all, a key ingredient for innovation IS diversity – but I’m not a fan of forcing it, either.

    So the questions Patti and I ask: how do we promote it TO THE WOMEN to get them engaged? More role models and demystifying technology to show how it can help us change the world (something many of us aspire to do!).

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