Should tech business leaders be concerned about diversity and inclusion in their workforce? Absolutely, if they plan on remaining competitive.
According to Morgan Stanley, businesses focusing on gender diversity enjoy higher productivity, greater innovation, better decision making and higher employee retention and satisfaction.
McKinsey says ethnically diverse businesses are 35 per cent more productive and nine per cent more profitable.
These facts alone should convince business leaders to re-examine their workforce – and take more proactive steps to remove obstacles to inclusion.
Comparing the organisational cultures I’ve experienced, the top performing businesses are the ones whose people feel they can bring their genuine selves to work without fear of recrimination, judgement or being denied opportunities for career development.
In the tech companies I’ve led, creating teams comprising diversity of thought driven by cultural background, gender, experiences and insights has delivered incredible innovation.
The case for greater inclusion
Businesses have long relied on their talented workforces for innovation, and this is especially true for the tech industry. Those that don’t strive to be inclusive or diverse tend to lose talent – consequently affecting their competitiveness in today’s fast-changing markets.
And the bleeding doesn’t stop there. Businesses that are perceived to be too exclusive will repel both male and female talents that desire more diverse workplaces – impacting their ability to recover from their thinning workforce.
One meaningful area of improvement technology companies can immediately examine is the career prospects of female employees. Women in IT have traditionally been side-lined for hiring and leadership roles and regularly experience the gender pay gap in action in the sector.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced, along with many of my female friends and colleagues, is re-entering the technology workforce after stepping out to raise children.
It requires a conscious effort on the part of the organisation to attract that talent back and “conscious bias” to ensure the pay of the returnee is on parity with her peers.
There are some great examples of tech companies in Australia leading the charge. Gumtree’s objective is to have one in three women holding leadership positions. Spotify’s team depends on its diversity to create innovation that sets them apart. I’m proud to say that at VMware Australia, we’ve actively ensured gender pay parity across the board.
By focusing on bringing diversity into every level of an organisation, businesses can leverage the unique strengths of each individual, no matter who they are. This need for inclusion will rise in tandem with the growing number of female IT professionals in the future.
These fresh faces will naturally gravitate toward workplaces that encourage their participation and growth, and whether that’s yours or your competitor’s, may hinge on who has made inclusion and diversity a greater priority.
IT businesses that have invested in a diverse and inclusive culture can expect to see the quality of their products and services rise. Innovation grows as more people bring their ideas and unique perspectives together, creating richer, more multi-faceted solutions.
This combined groupthink of a diverse workforce is bound to negate any gender or ethnic biases – and lead to innovation which doesn’t prioritise the needs of one specific audience over another.
Diversifying the business
The journey towards diversity and inclusion doesn’t have to be done in great strides. Small steps can kickstart the process of inclusivity that businesses can gradually build on.
My advice is to start early, then continue championing efforts toward diversity and inclusion throughout all levels. Commitment needs to be clear and it needs to be relentless, otherwise employees will dismiss it as platitudes, then interest will falter and momentum will die.
Only with diversity and inclusion can we begin to create richer, and more balanced innovation ecosystems that will lead to technologies and innovations that will truly leave the world a better place than when we found it.
Kerrie-Anne Turner is head of channels and general business at VMware. Kerrie-Anne was awarded the ARN Women in ICT Achievement award for achieving a range of firsts and exemplary results across the Asia Pacific region during a 25 year technology career. One of Kerrie-Anne’s most notable achievements was establishing Symantec’s Southeast Asian presence and building up its Indian operation at the age of 27, continuing her track record of driving business growth in her current role at VMware.