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IWD 2024: The economic impact of investing in women in tech
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

The discussion has moved from one of moral experiment to one of recognised economic need across all industries, especially tech. And even with this theoretical recognition, there is still a gross underrepresentation of women in tech roles and technology leadership to this day. This statistical disparity curses the proverbial glass ceiling and its effects on more than just individual careers but the very landscape itself. The conversation invariably falls back on 'traditional roles' and how motherhood generally supersedes the need for a career – even though there are many women out there trying to break in.  

This stereotype, invisible role models, and lack of access to equal opportunities in funding, and most specifically for this industry, learning opportunities and equal access to mentorship to learn what is considered a 'hard' thing to learn, prevent women from being represented in more significant percentages in the tech industry. We're bucking that trend at Phriendly Phishing, with a majority female leadership team, including myself. 

Economic Benefits of Gender Diversity 
The case for gender diversity in tech transcends social fairness, underpinning substantial economic benefits that fuel innovation, financial performance, and talent pool expansion. 

Innovation and Creativity: Diverse teams bring multiple perspectives, driving innovative solutions and creative problem-solving in tech. For example, Cindy Gallop's advocacy on LinkedIn for funding female founders underlines this point, emphasising that women-led startups are not just viable but often untapped for groundbreaking ideas and products. 

Financial Performance: Data consistently shows that companies with gender-diverse teams, especially at the leadership level, outperform their less diverse counterparts. Organisations prioritising diversity are more likely to experience financial growth, underscoring the direct link between inclusive practices and economic success. 

Talent Pool Expansion: Investing in women in tech broadens the talent pool, crucial for addressing the persistent skills shortage in the industry. By breaking down barriers to entry and acknowledging that tech or cyber is an accessible career, the sector can invite a larger, more varied workforce capable of driving innovation. 

Strategies for Investing in Women in Tech 
Efforts to enhance women's participation in tech must be multifaceted, we have focussed on education in the past, but it's not enough and we end up with educated women unable to find work or struggling to get their start-up off the ground.  

Venture Capital and Funding Equity: A pivotal area where the tech industry can drive substantial progress is in the approach venture capitalists take towards female founders. Historically, female entrepreneurs have faced biases in funding rounds, often being asked about the mitigation of failure rather than the potential for growth—a scrutiny not equally applied to their male counterparts. VCs should pivot their focus towards the unique opportunities female-led startups present.  

Women drive a lot of consumer decision-making, driving around 70% of consumer spending, and as 50% of the population, it's downright confusing that investors haven't, in proportion, unlocked the benefits that come with supporting women in tech and start-ups for consumer or b2b. Investing in female founders is not just an act of token equity; it should be a strategic business decision considered for its potential yield high returns and innovation.  

Leadership and mentorship: Promoting experienced women into leadership positions and providing mentorship opportunities for the emerging leaders are critical for ensuring that women not only enter the tech field but also thrive and ascend in their careers in a safe way, without having to infiltrate a boy's club. AWSN (Australian Women in Security Network) for one, do an amazing job of providing leadership, public speaking, and technical training opportunities to women in the tech and cyber security, as well as conference and event attendance. 

Support for returning from maternity leave: A significant yet overlooked strategy is improving the pathways for women returning from maternity leave. Many organisations lack the systems and procedures needed to ensure a smooth transition back into the workplace after some time away, leading to isolation, poor experiences, and, ultimately, higher attrition rates. Establishing structured support programs that include flexible work options, reintegration training, and mentorship would help address these challenges. They'll not only retain valuable talent but also reinforce a culture that truly values and supports women at all stages of their careers. 

The Road Ahead 
It's time for organisations, policymakers, and funding bodies to commit to equal, concrete actions that support women's inclusion and advancement in tech – not just in a diversity approach but as part of a meritocracy. The future of the industry and, by extension, the economy—depends on it.