Build your revenue! Grow your sales! Every business strives for success, looking for the key element that will put them a step ahead of the competition. Researchers(1) believe they have found a way to unlock growth, as we heard from IBM’s Hayley Hughes at the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Texas.
Are you ready? Come closer…..
WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS DELIVER GROWTH
- Diverse teams increase revenue by 41%.
- Women founders achieve 35% higher Return on Investment than their male counterparts.
- Companies with women at board level out-perform all-male led companies.
- Women make money
- Women spend money
- Women influence the spending habits of others.
In short, women are good for business. This is a message that tech firms in particular need to hear and act upon. The problem has been articulated well in many arenas (my recent article for Digital Leaders is a case in point). So what about the solution? What action can we take? It’s not as easy as you might think: the benefits of gender diversity are reaped only by companies that make diversity part of the corporate culture.
Culture and Bro culture
A few days earlier at SXSW, author Dan Lyons tackled ‘bro culture’ and its damaging effect on tech companies. His experiences in Silicon Valley, hilariously recorded in his recent book2, point to the dangers of the VC-backed business model now followed by tech companies: “grow fast, lose money, go public, cash out”. The ‘male and pale’ majority in the VC community tends to invest in the same demographic – a symptom of the short-term orientation of the western world. In fact, Steve Case, AOL founder, in another conversation at SXSW, reminded us that 78% of VC funding in the US goes to Silicon Valley, New York & Massachussetts; 10% goes to women; 1% goes to African-Americans. These statistics underline Dan Lyon’s experience, and demonstrate the scale of the challenge.
So to develop a diverse culture in tech firms, the ‘bro culture’ that is reinforced by investors has to change. As investors, surely the opportunity to generate greater returns must be a driver? There are some great investors springing up who recognise the benefits, such as Austin-based VC True Wealth Ventures which is plugging the gap in diverse VC funding.
New York’s E2W calls on institutions to ‘collect the gender dividend’ – a clear push to improve the bottom line through diversity. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing E2W founder Mark Freed speak on Diversity at the forthcoming Sage Summit in London this April, alongside other inspirational business leaders including Kelly Hoppen, Nicky Gott, Maxine Benson and Ellora James.
What can you do?
“We have to create companies that we want to work for.” says Dan Lyons. Take a look at your own working environment. What are the values, heroes, rituals and symbols that define you in that place? What are the cultural ties that keep you there? Now, move out of your comfort zone. What are the same elements in the culture that don’t apply to you? Are there rituals you take part in without enthusiasm (eg Friday night drinks are great, but impractical when you have to get home to the kids)? Are there symbols that don’t represent you (Facebook’s thumbs-up Like is as male and pale as they get!). If your company has a culture that doesn’t really sit right with its workforce – or a workforce that’s struggling to become more diverse – what are the things that need to change?
And finally, always remember: Gender is a business opportunity, not a women’s issue. It’s up to all of us to act.
Diversity is everyone’s challenge.
(1) Barker, L., Mancha, C., Ashcraft, C. (2014). “What is the Impact of Gender Diversity on Technology Business Performance?” Research Summary. National Center for Women & Information Technology
(2) Dan Lyons (2017): “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble”, pub. Hachette.