Women in business: new opportunities for growth

  • Posted on February 21, 2014

The world’s first computer programmer was a woman: Ada Lovelace. Yet despite these beginnings, a gender divide now exists between the number of men and women using, and working in, technology. And the gender gap is not just in the use of technology; it permeates throughout the workplace resulting in a distinct lack of women in senior positions in all enterprises today. Not surprising, McKinsey research reveals that women in business account for only 14% of Fortune 500 executives committees.

Companies need to address the lack of gender diversity within themselves as significant business opportunities exist for those who invest in gender diverse employee pools: the teams with the best results are those comprising professionals with different attitudes and methods; those who draw multiple approaches into one unified solution. Sociologist Giovanni Lucarelli asserts that heterogeneous teams create a “hybrid” culture that reflects and integrates diversities and stimulates creativity. He says a company should learn how to manage diversity to extract maximum value from its employees' differences. McKinsey found a connection between diverse leadership and financial success as those diverse workforces see their fiscal success increase 12%; so there is tangible value to diversifying the enterprise.

However, simply being diverse is only half the battle; Forbes recently highlighted a piece by Glenn Llopis on how diversity must integrate with all business processes to deliver full value: “diversity management is a responsibility that every department head must embrace and make part of their business plan and budget. It must be ingrained in how they think, act and innovate.” Ensuring diversity flows in an organisation is vital and, to achieve greater success, it is crucial to train and support those managers who demonstrate an interest in building teams with a higher percentage of women.

Technology is key in facilitating diversity in multinational organisations where employees are geographically dispersed and operate in highly dynamic, globalised environments; it can counter some of the challenges associated with operating across many cultures and locations. Increased use of consumer technologies creates opportunities to encourage flexible working practices and greater diversity; for example, working parents who may previously have felt pressured in balancing family-work commitments now don’t necessarily have to be tied to a desk in an office. Mobile applications and home broadband connectivity have advanced so far that the traditional “9 to 5” can happen at any time in a 24 hour day.

Social technologies enable employees in different locations to improve productivity. Improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction between workers by 20 to 25%. This has massive potential for improving the bottom line - Avanade research has revealed that companies adopting flexible technologies, processes and polices were 54% more likely to register increased profits.

There will undoubtedly be challenges as we work towards diversifying employment but new technology means there are significant development opportunities and, ahead of International Women’s Day on the 8th March, this is definitely the time for women in business to start making a move towards change. And, if the past two centuries of industrial and digital revolution have shown anything, technology is a driving force for total transformation of the workplace.

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