Ricossa: Female IT leaders vital to growth of tech sector

The technology industry falls short when it comes to a female presence within its organizations despite the role of women on the Internet, writes Avaya's Roberto Ricossa.

The technology industry is a trendsetter in many areas. Unfortunately, it falls short when it comes to a female presence within its organizations despite the role of women on the Internet, their integration as strong consumers of tech, and their participation in social networks, which increases every year.

The participation of women in social networks has increased to the point of domination. They are the primary users of Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, with LinkedIn being the only exception.

According to a report by Finances Online, women spend more time using social networks, use mobile devices to access them more often, read more news articles, interact more with brands, and accept more offers than men (53% versus 36%). Based on these findings, women are the leaders when it comes to setting online trends.

If you add to this the fact that women continue to be the primary decision-makers when it comes to purchases in the home, it is apparent that the increase of women in the tech sector has become an objective that impacts the sales and marketing strategies of any consumer-oriented company.

If we consider that technology is synonymous with change, it is clear that the feminine influence must not be exclusively confined to the increased use of social networks. The technology-based business world needs fresh ideas, multiple viewpoints, and new approaches. In my experience, teams comprised of members of different backgrounds and genders make the best work networks.

But, achievements by women are still not reflected in tech companies. In Europe and the US, women’s presence in the sector does not rise above 25%, according to the National Assessment on Gender and STI, sponsored by UNESCO.

In Europe, barely nine out of 100 applicants for developers are women, with only 19% of the industry’s leadership and entrepreneurs being made up of women. Stanford University points out that women in Silicon Valley earn 50% more than in other regions. However, just 3%
of tech companies are founded by women.

To make matters worse, those women who enter the sector, leave it. An international study by the University of Wisconsin shows the percentage of women abandoning tech companies is twice that of men, with working conditions (30%) and work-life balance (27%) cited as the main factors.

My daughters will soon have to decide their professional destiny and I can’t help but worry that women still have the perception that there are careers or industries where they cannot fully develop, where they cannot triumph or leave their mark.

Fortunately, with the awareness of this situation, campaigns are under way in the US and Europe (Every Girl Digital) to encourage young women to direct their studies and careers toward information technology. In Mexico, a committee represented by companies in the sector will seek to do the same.

It is key to make female IT pros visible in roles that seem attractive to their peers, transforming them into examples that will encourage women to study technology beginning in high school.

A greater presence of female leaders in tech companies could encourage young women to pursue these careers. Fortunately, some high-profile examples do exist, such as Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, who among others have expressed the need to form a corporate environment that makes it possible for women to be successful in the tech sector.

Technology-based companies led by women are more financially efficient, obtain a 35% greater ROI, and generate 12% more earnings than the startups initiated by men, according to data from Stanford University and the Kauffman Foundation.

The role of women in technology must be presented more attractively, especially in an industry where competition is fierce. Intelligent women who lead their own startups, manage successful companies, and form a diverse labor force in technology present new points of view and approaches, which will result in new and innovative digital performances and online experiences. This is essential and will allow for the renovation of standards in an industry where its future, in part, depends on these changes.  

Roberto Ricossa is VP of marketing and inside sales at Avaya Americas.

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