Stephen Pinker in his epic tome, The Better Angels of our Nature, cites feminisation as one of five key elements contributing to the decline of violence in the world today. I am not here today to talk about the decline in violence, that is for another blog, but I do want to talk about why feminisation is deeply relevant to my industry of tech and telecoms.
These industries form the foundation for the world of the future whether we like it or not. Technological progress will not be reversed, however much you want peace from the constant communication, tweets, FB updates and Whatapp messages. Technology and telecoms will just progress and we will evolve and adapt accordingly. It will be the landscape of future minds and we need to take care of it.
Today, these industries are still dominated by men in decision making positions and we have an almost immovable statistic of 20% female representation, which reduces substantially as you move up the decision making and management chain.
So how do we open the doors wider for more women to take their place in the industry and therefore influence the future? I don't have the absolute answer, but from my experience I have a few nuggets that I keep close in helping me keep on.
1. Don't be put off
Technology is the landscape of the future. Its application will reach into every aspect of our lives and our childrens lives. People sometimes see this as negative, but I see it differently and part of my argument for more women in tech is predicated on this subject. We need to be at the table to influence the decisions made about how technology touches our lives whether it is through legislation, data security or technology design. You don't need to be an engineer in this landscape but you do need to be passionate about making a difference for the betterment of the future.
2. Know the data
There is ample evidence to support the value and benefit that gender parity provides to organisations. Evidence that profitability, productivity and corporate governance all benefit from a more gender balanced environment. Melvin Konner's recent book, Women After All explains how and why this is the case. How industry and the corporate world to date has suffered from not utilising the full benefits that the complement between male and female thinking can facilitate and how misleading and dangerous the misperceptions of women has been and that it must be changed. These industries NEED more women at the table.
3. Back women
I often get shouted back that 'it is about the best candidate for the role, not their gender'. I challenge this point of view in so far as there is a statistically imbalanced representation of women to choose from therefore there is currently an argument that positive gender discrimination could act as a lever to reset the dial for women and fast track parity. I also question the basis for which a 'best candidate' is measured. These tend to be male biased bases and therefore it's invariably difficult for women to compete when the heuristic pushes for male like qualities.
This is about resetting the dial and of course there will be women who turn out to not be right for the job, but then, history has revealed there have been a great many men in roles who are 'not right for the job'.
4. Don't be afraid of being pilloried and vilified
The corporate world is predicated on a very masculine conduct, this is less a criticism and just a statement of fact due to circumstance. Bullying is a norm. Sex and War by Malcom Potts and Thomas Hayden, offers an excellent insight as to the evolution of this behavior in human society. I have seen many men being, what I call, bullied but what fascinates me is how they react. They get angry but accept it as par for the course. Women approach this in a different way. We don't accept bullying as tolerable behavior. 'Sexism' is bullying by another name. Calling this behaviour out is unpopular but will change the dial, and not just for women.
5. You don't have to 'man up' to be a successful female
Being subjected to bullying and sexism forces women to feel the only way to beat it is join it. This behavior is known as 'manning up' in order to be accepted. Gender parity is not about adding more females to the corporate world in order to propogate masculine behavior, it is about diluting the masculinity with feminine traits and utilising the complement of them.
My final word, is to men. This debate is heavily weighted to the female agenda because of the imbalance today. At no point do I think we can do without men or that women are better than men. This is about PARITY, not superiority.
Louise was recently named as one of the fifty most inspiring women in the European technology sector by Inspiring Fifty. Inspiring Fifty is a pan-European programme that identifies, encourages, develops and showcases women in leadership positions within the technology community. The aim is to inspire a new generation of female leaders and entrepreneurs across Europe and indeed worldwide, leading the charge to affect meaningful and durable change.