It’s Time To Speak Up For Gender Equality In The Tech Sector

I believe it’s imperative to stand up for what you believe is right; for me on of these things is gender equality. While it’s always been important to me, the birth of my two daughters has made it more personal as I want to set an example for them and show them that I believe they can achieve anything they want.

Today there are 1.75 billion women in the workforce. Yet, according to the World Economic Forum, the gender pay gap won’t disappear until 2186. The technology sector is not immune to this pay gap either. What’s more, women are underrepresented in the industry too. Female employees only make up 18 percent of all tech jobs in the UK, according to Deloitte. The same research shows a further 37 percent say they have been passed over for promotion because they are female.

It’s clear to me that we all – men and women alike – need to work to drive greater diversity and equality in our sector.

Why should we bother?

Tackling gender inequality is about more than doing the right thing. A lack of diversity can hamper the growth and prosperity of the tech sector. There will be 750,000 new digital jobs in the UK by 2020 and we need to ensure we have access to skilled talent to fill them. If half the population is significantly under-represented, it makes this task so much harder.

The issue doesn’t just affect the technology industry either. Given the importance of our sector to the wider economy, if we fail to create a robust talent pipeline, there’s likely to be a wider knock on effect on the rest of the economy.

A lack of diversity also threatens innovation and business decision-making. Research shows that when women make up at least 30 percent of leadership positions, it adds 6 percent to a company’s net profit margin. There are many other studies that show a more diverse workforce is a more successful one that makes better decisions.

Time to be Bold for Change

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was #BeBoldforChange. So how can we act boldly when it comes to tech sector change?

One simple thing we can all do is to make a commitment to mentor a female colleague. Over the years I’ve mentored a number of women and to be honest I think I’ve benefitted from the relationships as much as they have. I’ve found our conversations help me view challenges from different perspectives and consider news ways to talk to men and women about the changes we need to make.
I also believe change also has to start at the top. Gender inequality impacts all of us, but in my experience when male leaders show commitment to the issue, other men notice and step up.

Establishing policies and procedures to ensure equality is important too. By this I mean things like ensuring equal pay and equal access to career promotion opportunities. At Salesforce, for example, since conducting our first all-company equal pay audit in 2016, the company has spent nearly $6 million to eliminate statistically significant differences in pay. We continuously assess and aim for pay equity across the entire organisation of 25,000 employees and it’s become part of our corporate DNA. This year we extended the audit to include bonuses, and found that eleven percent of employees received adjustments following our second assessment.

Making a difference doesn’t have to be limited to the workplace either – there are plenty of opportunities to influence the young people in our lives. The tech sector still hasn’t shaken off its stereotype of being a career for men, so it’s important we talk about our careers with the girls we know, and really encourage those who have a passion for STEM subjects.

I’m proud of the strong stance Salesforce is taking and of the hard work that has gone into building our approach to diversity and gender equality. However we cannot do it alone and campaigning for a fair and equal society is something all of us in the tech industry need to do every day.

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