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Women in Cloud: Make Your Business Fly

If innovation drives business growth, then what drives innovation?

As you might guess, the key is diversity at all levels across the board. Like other types of diversity (i.e., people from different backgrounds and life experiences), studies suggest that gender-balanced teams bolster innovation. Women may bring a particular set of skills to the workplace that boosts productivity and growth.
Other research shows that companies with greater gender diversity generate more revenue from product innovation than those with less diversity. And when women rise into positions of leadership, so does innovation-related revenue.

Yet, the gender gap persists, especially in the field of tech. Currently, less than 2% of corporate contracts go to women-led tech businesses. While a boost in innovation isn’t limited to one type of diversity, closing the gender gap could increase the GDP by an average of 35%.

This week, top female tech leaders gathered in The Inclusion Lounge @ Microsoft Inspire to share how they’re driving gender equality and accelerating innovation through Women In Cloud, a business accelerator that helps women-led tech startups access the market. Here are their most important takeaways.

Inclusion Lounge @ Microsoft Inspire. 2019. Women in Cloud.

From left to right: Dao Jenson of Kaizen Technologies, Erin Papworth of Nav.it, Madinah Ali of SafePC, Linda Rose of RoseBizInc., Chaitra Vedullapalli of Meylah & Women In Cloud, and Colleen O’Brien of M12 in The Inclusion Lounge @ Microsoft Inspire

Promote Flexible Working

One way leaders can strengthen their company’s diversity and inclusion policies is by establishing flexible working programs. Update and improve policies to support part-time and remote work, for example. Offer gender-equal paid parental leave as well as employee health benefit policies that support reproductive freedom. And, of course, develop mechanisms that address motherhood and pregnancy discrimination.
Linda Rose, Founder of RoseBizInc., says she’s a big proponent of taking sabbaticals. She offers them at her company, but sets some perimeters. “You couldn’t just take a month off and hang out at home,” she says. “You had to take a month off to enrich yourself, whether it was traveling or learning a new skill.” Plus, Linda adds, “Removing yourself from your organization also empowers your team members to take over more responsibilities.”

 

Hold Leaders Accountable

C-suite leaders are uniquely positioned to embed diversity into their company’s DNA and set an inclusive tone. “People have good intentions, but they’re so busy they default to what’s easiest,” says Erin Papworth, Founder, and CEO of Nav.it. “You have to make diversity a policy. If it’s something you want to push forward, having a system [in place helps make it happen].”

As a CEO, make it your personal mission as a leader to invest the money, time, and resources into achieving gender balance. “Think about how you can help women accelerate by giving them access to opportunities,” says Chaitra Vedullapalli, Co-founder & CMO, Meylah & Women In Cloud.

Mandatory diversity training sessions can help improve equality and business performance. But mentorship has been proven to do more—especially for women in tech. Dao Jensen, CEO of Kaizen Technologies, reminds us that, To get more women in tech, we have to open the doors and teach women how to do it.” Even small changes in daily interactions can make an enormous difference.

 

Make Concrete Diversity Goals

We know that the case for investing in women is only getting stronger as the world moves forward. So, why not present targets for gender diversity as a business opportunity? Remember to create key performance indicators (KPIs) so that you can measure progress.

Push yourself to hire with an equality mindset. Just look at studies on Research & Development teams, for example. When there are more women, radical innovation is more likely. Women in R&D reduce bias, which leads to better research. And better research produces more effective, sustainable, and innovative solutions. The payoff is huge. “It will make you a better person,” Linda says.

Karen Fassio. The Inclusion Lounge @ Microsoft Inspire. 2019.

Karen Fassio of Microsoft in The Inclusion Lounge @ Microsoft Inspire

Let Inclusion Be Part of Your Purpose

Transparency must be a company-wide mandate in order to foster a culture of belonging in the workplace. Consumers, especially in the Millennial generation and Gen-Z, want to support purpose-driven brands. This includes brands that are committed to advancing equality. Brands that have an ethical mission and celebrate diversity attract more talent. Moreover, when business leaders are open about their commitment to parity (e.g., equal pay), employees feel more motivated to contribute, which makes teams stronger. In other words, “Inclusion is the thing that actually charges the ability for diversity to be successful,” as Microsoft Director Karen Fassio says.

Diversity initiatives are key for driving change. On the flip side, nobody wants to be hired just to fill a quota, you want to be hired because you are the best. Madinah Ali, Founder and CEO of SafePC, reminds us, “It’s about remembering that you have to go in there and compete; do the best that you can do, and not focus on the fact that you are a woman.”

Start cultivating a workplace culture that values all dimensions of diversity. Give your employees the freedom to create and be inspired. Then, watch your business fly. For more, see the full discussion here.

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To read more about the benefits of gender equality in the workplace, check out:

Why Gender Diversity is Good for Business and the World

How Brands Can Leverage the Power of Purpose to Grow

In Her Words: Thriving in the Employment Gap