Inside the Equality Lounge @ CES 2020: Why Visibility for Women is Key to Closing Tech's Gender Gap
Women make up nearly half of the total labor force in the United States. And yet, the tech industry is still very much a boys’ club. While the percentage of working women has gradually climbed over the past decades, it remains significantly lower in the tech sector.
Women comprise roughly 26% of the computing workforce in the U.S. The gap is particularly wide for women of color, who comprise only around 4% of technical roles in tech companies and are almost completely absent at the senior leadership level in Fortune 500 tech companies. What’s worse? It looks like the number of women in tech is near an all-time low, dropping lower than it was back in the 1980s.
As the figures clearly show, there’s still a lot of progress to be made for women in tech and STEM-related fields. But, there are steps we can take to close the gaps, including educating students about the power of tech in today’s world, increasing pathways to tech careers, bringing visibility to female role models in the industry, leveling the playing field so women can achieve their full potential, and busting harmful stereotypes that perpetuate the myth “STEM is not for them.”
We know that when we work together, we move further, faster, and smarter, which is why we were thrilled to serve as the official Equity Partner for CES 2020. What better place to break ground (and the rules) than at CES, where entrepreneurs and established industry pioneers unveil breakthrough innovations?!
Within the Equality Lounge® (formerly the FQ Lounge), key female leaders joined forces to explore chief diversity officer insights, product inclusion, contributing to the bottom line, culture-shifting, hiring differently, and investing in diversity. We also featured equality partners and did our annual floor tour with more than 200 women in official partnership with CES. Here are some of the biggest highlights.
Women Can Fill the Demand for Talent
By 2024, more than two-thirds of computing-related jobs in the U.S. could go unfilled due to an insufficient pool of college graduates with computing-related degrees. Women could help meet this demand. Research shows that girls express a high level of interest in STEM until high school but opt-out as they get older. If we address gender disparities that start early on, we can flip the balance.
When young women have access to STEM-related activities from a young age, they gain practical experience that brings the subjects to life. This exposure can encourage them to pursue STEM-related subjects in school and beyond: 74% of middle school girls who participate in these activities say they are likely to study computer science in high school; middle school girls who participate in STEM clubs and activities are more than twice as likely to say they’ll study physics in high school, and nearly 3 times as likely to say they’ll study engineering; and, at the high school level, girls participating in STEM clubs and activities are over 2.5 times more likely to say they’ll continue studying computer science in college.
Creating more gender balance in the workplace often means challenging age-old stereotypes that disempower women. “You’re going to constantly come up against people saying, ‘This hasn’t been done before’ or ‘This is a man’s job,’ but you have to carve your own path,” said WWE Superstar Becky Lynch in the Equality Lounge®. It’s ok to be afraid. Just don’t forget this technique from FOX Business anchor Liz Claman: “When you’re asked to do something that you don’t have experience in, say yes, and start learning.”
Diverse Teams are Critical to Digital Innovation
Adding more women to the digital workforce will do more than just fill a growing need for talent. Companies that have an equal representation of women are more innovative and resilient. According to a BCG study, companies with above-average diversity on their management teams reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity (45% of total revenue versus just 26%).
What unites the remarkable technology offerings on display at CES? Its users are human. As Leanna Nair, Unilever’s Chief Human Resources Officer, reminded us, “Empathy, compassion, love, and meaning are what will differentiate our businesses and brands in the future.”
Women Boost the Bottom Line
Computer science has one of the smallest pay gaps between male and female professionals, with women earning 94% of what men earn. Still, the turnover rate is more than twice as high for women than it is for men in tech industry jobs.
Reducing female attrition doesn’t just benefit women — it means more ROI. “ The more diverse your workforce, the better you’ll be able to serve a wider market,” as Deloitte’s Chief Innovation Officer, Nishita Henry, points out. It’s true: according to Catalyst, Fortune 500 companies that had at least three women directors saw average return on equity increase by at least 53%, return on sales increase by at least 42%, and return on invested capital increase by at least 66%.
Some ways that companies can eliminate barriers to recruit, retain, and advance women in tech include:
- Identify every possible candidate
- Rethink candidate events
- Consider candidates from non-STEM and STEM-related fields
- Make fair job offers
- Use technology to eliminate biases
Accelerating Women in Tech is a No-Brainer
It should be noted that female-founded startups generate more revenue — and they do it with far less venture capital funding. In 2019, more female-founded unicorns were born than ever before. There were 21 startups (six more than in 2018) founded or co-founded by a woman that became unicorns. The lesson these female founders can teach us? “If you don’t run with your ideas, someone else is going to. If there’s an open runway, take it,” as Actress/Activist/Entrepreneur Sophia Bush says. It’s estimated that VCs could have made an additional $85 million over five years if they had invested equally in the female- and male-founded startups.
As industries step into the digital age, tech will only become a more integral part of the economy and the demand for talent will continue to grow. Women can’t be left behind! Visibility is key to inspiring the next generation. So, let’s continue to celebrate all the women in tech who are creating products and services that help build a more inclusive society.
There’s power in the female voice, and podcasts are the new creative frontier. Giide, created with Intel and MediaVillage, launched this week at CES 2020 with a podcast featuring our Equality Hacks. As Shelley Zalis, CEO of the Female Quotient, always says, “Leadership isn’t about age or title, it’s about action. We all have the power to do something — and some things are just so easy!”…Like downloading the Giide app from Apple or Google Play. Once you download the app, you can watch Shelley’s Giide in full, which includes additional resources, such as activities, links, and notes.
Check out more buzz from the Equality Lounge @ CES 2020 here:
Media, Advertising, Marketing, Tech, and Entertainment Execs Unify to Advance Industry Diversity
Why CES? The Ad Industry Attached Itself to a Consumer Tech Show, But as CES Evolves, Should That Continue?
The Female Quotient Is Working to Transform Corporate Culture