The women in leadership myth | Sam Gordon, Gordon & Eden

Leadership

Recent findings from the British Business Bank suggest that only one penny in the pound goes to businesses founded by two women, whereas 87 pence in the pound goes to businesses founded by two men.

Whilst the case for diversity and specifically for gender diversity has been proven time and time again, the general business ecosystem still has a long way to go to really move the needle.

We may have shifted beyond diversity as a box ticking exercise however we are still on the cusp of women either shaping tech or being shaped by it. Yet as we become increasingly reliant on algorithms to determine social outcomes, the more software development teams need to include a mix of men and women with different life experiences to spot when data biases are skewing the decisions.

Our digital future still shows signs of a strong male bias. We need more women coders, investors and innovators to identify and amplify the pockets of industry that are still woefully neglected. Take the $50bn global femtech market, which, up until recently, had no products catering for it.

I feel we have reached a critical point where the business ecosystem should consistently expect genuinely diverse leadership teams. This was recently brought home when we placed four amazing women into c-level roles.

Of these hires, one is a CEO of a unicorn tech business, there is a Chief Data Officer for a major corporate, an SVP Technology for a major media firm and a senior executive for a $20bn + Fintech firm. Whilst all four sectors are traditionally male-dominated I believe this should now be seen as ordinary rather than extraordinary.

None of the searches were easy. If we are asked to find a world-leading technologist we may, at first, struggle as only 22 per cent of AI professionals globally are female, but they are still out there and worth finding. Whether the search takes a bit longer, is more complex or less profitable for the firm delivering the work feels less important than the impact these hires can make. It is not just the positive contribution to the business but the role models we are presenting to other women in the industry.

Equality advocates may voice frustration at the lack of women who are working in tech-related fields. In fact many still seem to buy into the myth that women with tech and leadership skills are near on impossible to find. By showing a bit of flexibility in the hiring criteria, and holding your search partner to account,  I believe the right women can always be identified.

It will no doubt take some time for business leaders to undo society’s gender biases, but we can all take mitigating steps to break through the barriers. As we stand tech organisations recruit fewer women than men and they lose them at a faster rate. Globally women make up 25 per cent of STEM workers, according to Boston Consulting Group, but only nine per cent of women are leaders in those fields. We all still have some way to go to redress the balance.

Sam Gordon Eden 2018About the author

Sam Gordon is co-founder of Executive Search firm Gordon & Eden. He has over 20 years experience sourcing world-class digital and technology talent for some of the world’s most innovative companies. Clients include Facebook, Ovo, Stripe and Monzo. Gordon is an active angel investor and mentor to tech founders.

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