Women In Tech: A Saga, A Setback, And Finding Solutions

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From Gartner’s Women Technology Executive Leaders (WTEL) Taskforce Guest contributor: Erin Lloyd Gordon, WTEL Member and Sr. Principal Analyst [caption id="attachment_176" align="aligncenter" width="420"] On a percentage basis, the NASA computing team which helped send John Glenn to space in 1959 was more gender diverse than the top 50 tech firms in Silicon Valley in 2017.[/caption] It’s Women’s History Month, so let’s do it. Let’s talk about women in technology. It’s no secret that we’ve been grappling with gender diversity in technology for years—generations, really. We are underrepresented, especially as we make our way up the career ladder. Some studies put women in as little as 10% of the industry’s executive leadership positions[1] (compared to 23% across all industries[2]). This is despite the fact that diversity, including gender diversity, is just plain good for business. In 2019, the top quarter of companies for gender diverse executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability[3] than their counterparts in the bottom quartile. Hard to argue with that… yet here we still are. Now, it’s not all bad news: Strides have truly been made over time. In a 2019 study, the proportion of women-founded startups had doubled (to roughly 20%) over the last decade[4]. And Gartner found that these are women on a mission! Women technology CEOs, when asked how they believed an economic downturn would affect their business in a study completed in February 2020, were far more likely than their male counterparts to express optimism about the opportunities a recession would create to growth their business (check out “Women Tech CEOs: A Guide to Executing Strategy in the Face of Uncertainty”). [caption id="attachment_183" align="alignnone" width="478"] Gartner Tech CEO[/caption] But that was before… Then the 2020 global health crisis kicked the world—and business—as we know it out of the nest of normalcy. And it was also before we saw a disturbing—although not surprising—trend emerge in the form of a disproportionate mass exodus of women workers (the “Great She-cession”)[5]. So if gender diversity in technology wasn’t at the forefront of business leaders’ minds before, oh man! (err… I mean, oh woman!) it’s certainly needs to be now. Of course there are already some really powerful networking and mentoring associations out there for women in technology (I see you WITI, WIT, and GWIT), but change needs to come from within, too, right? How are technology and service providers improving gender representation, inclusion, and opportunity? Gartner’s women on a mission: That’s exactly the question that a new team formed within our Technology and Service Provider research practice is exploring. We are the WTEL (Women Technology Executive Leaders) research initiative and our mission is to provide senior leaders— both women and their allies—in technology with insights to help them: Advance women’s leadership success Address women’s professional challenges related to gender Deliver Gartner content with actionable insight Facilitate engagement and support within the women executive leadership community Create opportunities to advocate women’s executive leadership in technology With members spanning the entirety of our Technology and Service Provider role-based research teams, WTEL began publishing research aimed at this mission last year. We have insights for general managers on how supporting women in leadership with sponsorship and mentorship to capitalize on gender diversity benefits. We’ve got notes for CEOs of emerging technology and service providers on executing with optimism in the face of uncertain times and developing self-awareness of how you’re perceived by others to be more influential. For product management leaders, we’ve explored their role in closing the digital divide for both women technology users and women in the talent pipeline. And, as we all moved deeper into the throes of the pandemic, we assembled real-world examples and best practices for women and their allies on inspiring leadership and managing buy-in from key stakeholders in our new reality. Next up: WTEL in the Age of the Great She-cession No doubt about it: if ever there was a time to talk about improving gender diversity in technology, it is 2021! Even if we didn’t have a problem before (and again a little louder for our friends in the back: as little as 10% of the industry’s executive leadership positions are women), we’re certainly going to now. In 2021, our WTEL research plan is rooted in the simple fact that gender diversity is good for business; there’s a business case to be made in every organization to examine and improve gender diversity, especially right now. Over the course of the year and across the various technology and service provider roles Gartner serves, WTEL will be answering: What has material impact on gender diversity in the organization? What can be learned from the companies that are already succeeding in this area? How can women embrace their personal brand? How is buyer loyalty driven by DE&I in your solutions? What tactical steps can you take to reach your business’ gender diversity goals? How can women leaders take advantage of opportunities created by gender diversity programs and policies? How should employers address the pay equity gap? Our research, though, isn’t unidirectional; it’s part of a broad and important discourse that includes all women in technology and their allies. (Of course, it’s also one aspect of an even bigger theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion overall.) To that end, we welcome you to join and engage with us and your peers through the Gartner Research Circle—a community for Gartner clients and non-clients. Last year, we invited members to participate in survey on women leaders in technology—a survey which has help fuel our research with a real, current, and relevant pulse—and we’ll be offering this opportunity to lend your voice again this year.

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