With us fast approaching the end of the first quarter for 2017, March has seen us celebrate International Women’s Day. Attending a number of events throughout the week - “Gender equality – women’s work and care” – Human Rights Commission; “Celebrating the digital frontier” – Females in Technology and Telecommunications (FITT); “The future is female” – General Assembly, I heard a number of themes continually intersect.
For diversity to occur in the world of cyber, and beyond, it’s evident we need to encourage equality in school and at home. Equal access to education, care responsibilities, maternity and paternity leave, and working from home opportunities is paramount.
However most importantly, from school leavers to senior professionals, women are looking for organisations to show an authentic desire to be a diverse company. Being authentic means that the word diversity isn’t just thrown around like many other overused buzz words of the decade. It’s important that diversity ie. a range of different people, is the essence of any organisation and is respected throughout. Gender diverse tech firms are on the rise ….EBAY and LinkedIn now employ 43% and 42% women, respectively. Yet, we have a long way to go at the top end, with women on boards representing less than 30%.
In case you require validation that diversity is a positive, a number of studies are now coming to light that show gender diverse organisations have a stronger bottom line. In fact, you are “15% more likely to have financial returns above the national medians” and at the senior executive level “for every 10 percent increase in gender diversity, EBIT rose by 3.5 percent.” Whilst the topic for this blog is focussed on gender diversity, it’s important to note companies with racial and ethnic diversity are “35 % more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.” (McKinsey 2015)
Another issue which was briefly discussed at one of the conferences was the contentious topic of quotas. Whilst to date I have been completely against the thought of quotas – and that true equality can only be achieved on merit alone, I have recently heard some valid points. What quotas can do is ensure talent acquisition, recruitment teams and hiring managers go well beyond the traditional means to find people. That we don’t just hire who is front and center today, which we know more often than not, is a male. The need for talent mapping and succession plans are instrumental in long term gender diverse strategies, certainly in the world of cyber and technology in general. This includes pipelining strong female talent that although may not be a fit today, a relationship is built so that employer and potential employee can reach out at a later date when a situation may change. Strong ongoing relationships within your own sector can help create a sense that your organisation is serious about creating a diverse work environment.
As we can see the answer is a not straight forward one – if it was, we would still not be asking the question in 2017! Women represent 50% of society, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone that diversity is a competitive differentiator. Hiring and retaining women in cyber or the world of tech can no longer be about talent acquisition trying to find ‘a woman’ for ‘a position’ in one point of time.
I see a need for stronger talent mapping and gender neutral working conditions, at all levels of an organisation. This will benefit women and their employers everywhere, and ensure women can enter and remain long term within cyber and technology.
This year I’ll continue to research how we can best manage this process and I look forward to seeing continued positive changes in the cyber and tech world around me.
Kate Broughton is the Head of Delivery @ Decipher Bureau. Kate connects with security professionals across a range of verticals and helps to align these professionals with companies who match their professional and personal goals. Her clients include national and multinational enterprise, where she is known to help attract and retain the very best and brightest, diverse talent.