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Viva gender diversity: Who says technology is a man’s game?!

You might imagine that technology companies are at the forefront of diversity, especially considering most are full of super-intelligent people who would never dream of discriminating against someone. The reality, however is that gender diversity is a huge issue within our industry, and has been for some time.
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The importance of gender diversity has not gone unnoticed. A recent diversity report from Tech London Advocates, showed 46 per cent of London’s technology companies did not believe a diverse workforce improves company growth. Some may consider this a shocking discovery.

The report goes on to explain that the gender diversity in technology companies in London is worryingly unbalanced. Out of 40,000 firms based in London, nearly 1,000 have an entirely male workforce. What is clear from these findings is the technology industry is not appealing to both genders on an equal level who might be considering moving into the sector. The trend is similar around the world.

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For decades, it has been proven that work places flourish with diverse environments. A McKinsey report showed companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above respective national industry medians, whereas ones in the bottom quartile are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns.

In my view, companies benefit greatly from gender diversity. I believe it is a secret sauce for boosting success in creative and innovative industries. I think that at Woobi, as a young company co-founded and managed by me, a female CEO, with a newly appointed female chief technical officer and a female chief marketing officer, we tend to consider gender a non-issue. It is just natural that we would have a diverse workforce, However, I don’t think I can say the same about the wider industry.

But it is also a no-brainer from a business perspective. We develop technology for the in-game advertising industry, with a mission to create an emotional engagement between the gamer and the advertiser. Given that according to many studies over 50 per cent of gamers are women we would be missing a huge trick if we did not employ women at the most senior levels of our company! Amazingly, discoveries such as this around who your target audience really is, is still news to many in the industry.

In many places around the world, women are being held back due to pre-conceived perceptions of what is accepted in certain industries. And this is not solely an issue for the technology industry, although here it is perhaps acute with outdated stereotypes of what it takes to success in technology. It is also important to note that these days, the focus on gender diversity seems to be largely on women. There are more deep-rooted issues around socioeconomic statuses that need to be addressed though. As far as unconscious bias stands, candidates may be eliminated because of their name, the area they live in, the place of birth and many other personal factors which have no effect on their talent.

I believe that by removing personal information from a candidate’s application, we don’t only get the advantages of a diverse team but also hire incredibly talented people other companies may pass on because of unconscious bias. The issues of diversity within the technology industry are so much bigger than whether a company should hire a man or a woman.

There is no clear reason as to why these pre-existing problems exist in particular. But in the future, it will be important to drive and celebrate all types of a diverse workforce where possible if we wish to make a difference to conceived perception, and make a real change in cultures.

Chaya Soggot is founder and chief executive of leading adtech firm, Woobi

Concerned with issues surrounding gender diversity in business? Don’t miss the Real Business First Women programme:

Drawing on years of the First Women movement and the phenomenal network of pioneering women the Awards has created, this programme features The First Women Awards and The First Women Summit  designed to educate, mentor and inspire women in all levels of business.

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