Why Gender Diversity in Tech Matters
By: Mihae Ahn, Marketing Manager, ProServeIT Corporation
As I was looking at my cohorts during Convocation Day last month, I couldn’t help but notice the gap between the number of male and female cohorts in attendance. I don't remember exactly how many female and male students were in my class (class of 2019 Morning and Evening MBA at Rotman School of Management (Rotman), University of Toronto). But, there were definitely more males than females graduating with me.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the class profile for those who entered the program in 2018. The gender ratio of the class of 2021 for Morning and Evening MBA is 31% female and 69% male. The gender ratio of the full time MBA program's class of 2020 is 36% female students and 64% male students.
And it looks like this gender gap is not unique to Rotman. Only 37.8% of the students at 52 business schools belonging to the Forté Foundation in 2018 were female.
Gender Diversity by the Numbers
This made me wonder whether it’s by choice (i.e. less women want to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration because this is not the type of education they want) or are there others reasons for such a large gap between male and female MBA students. According to further research, one of the top reasons why less women enrol (after they get an admission letter from a business school) is funding. While only 9% of U.S. men cited funding as their major hurdle when pursuing an MBA degree, 30% of women said that funding is their biggest challenge.
There can be various reasons why three times more women cited the funding as a major hurdle. But I think one of the main reasons is the pay gap between men and women. More specifically, looking at a woman’s current salary and their income potential post-MBA. On average, Canadian women make 75 cents for every dollar that a Canadian man makes (Canadian Women's Foundation). In the United States, a chief executive position is one of the top ten occupations where women lose the most money – in that arena, women executives make only 75% of what their male counterparts make (American Association of University Women).
The Problem of Gender Diversity in Tech (and Why it Matters)
The gender gap that exists in these MBA programs exists in the tech industry as well. According to this year’s Statista’s study, at major tech companies, female employees make up only between 27% (Microsoft) and 47% (Netflix) of the workforce. When it comes to actual tech jobs, the number is even lower.
So why do I bring up these gender gaps in the MBA programs and the tech industry? Because gender diversity matters. Gender diversity, just as other forms of diversities, like ethnic or cultural diversity, matters because it provides the workplace with different viewpoints, ideas, and insights. Why does it matter to the tech industry in particular? The top three reasons, in my opinion, are:
- Providing different perspectives, which spark creativity:
Ever worked with a diverse group of people whose gender, age, cultural background, native language spoken, and ethnicity are different from yours? It’s amazing how wide the range of ideas that can float around. This can spark creativity and innovation, which is exactly what the tech industry needs.
- Reflecting your customers better:
The tech industry serves a variety of organizations and consumers. Having more female employees will help your organization to better understand and reflect your customer base. And this means you can come up with solutions and services that better meet your customers’ needs.
- Improving your organization's reputation and profitability:
An inclusive culture that encourages diversity attracts top talent and helps improve your brand image, which eventually leads to a greater profitability. The more women who work in the tech industry, the more role models and mentors who can help young women imagine their career in the tech industry.
How ProServeIT is Addressing Gender Diversity in Tech
For the above three (and various other) reasons, I truly believe in gender diversity in tech. And that’s why I led the initiative to sponsor a membership for The Women in Technology (WiT) Network for all women at ProServeIT. Being part of organizations like the WiT Network empowers women through networking, learning, mutual support, and mentorship. The organization-wide support for an initiative like this shows ProServeIT’s culture and commitment for gender diversity and its employees’ career development. This is important to me and I know it is to many of my colleagues.
ProServeIT also believes in inspiring young women to imagine their career in the tech industry. Recently, we hosted an event with Microsoft Canada, inviting grade 11 and 12 students to Microsoft Canada’s Mississauga office so that they could hear from a panel of women in technology about their career journey. I was honoured to be part of the panel.
The questions the students were asking and their feedback at the end of the event showed that the event helped them understand the variety of the jobs that exist in the tech industry: many thought most jobs in the tech industry were technical jobs, such as coding or software development, but throughout the day, they learned of the other jobs available in various functions such as finance, sales, marketing, accounting, etc. They also learned about the different career and education paths that they can take to land in the tech industry, and the work-life balance that women in the tech industry are striving to achieve. I was impressed that some of them were wondering about the possibility of work-life balance and thinking about this at their ages!
So yes, Gender Diversity in Tech matters!
The tech industry is still male-dominant. The MBA programs have a lot more men than women. The gender gap in pay does exist. And gender biases and norms also exist. These are the realities we live in. These will still be true decades from now if we don't take action.
Looking at my one-year old daughter, I can’t help but take action. I can’t help but think (and think hard) about what I can do to change those realities for the better for my daughter and her generation. This is one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog and will continue to write about women in technology, hoping that these blog posts can raise awareness around gender diversity in tech and contribute to the positive changes.
The more women who join the tech industry, the more inspiring stories we have to tell to our young women. This applies to the MBA program as well; the more women who join the program, the more women who will become executives, and the more amazing and inspiring stories that can be shared with ambitious young women out there.