The hottest topics facing Silicon Valley go well beyond merely the latest tech gadgets and newest devices. It is an issue of social matters and gender equality. The representation of women in technology, or lack thereof, has been a heated talking point for years. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Sheryl Sandberg has chastised the Bay Area’s technology central for being an exclusive “boy’s club” where its residents are overwhelmingly White or Asian. Having diversity isn’t just great for the women of Silicon Valley; it can be great for the companies as well.
Ahavel Aborishade is known for being an influential entrepreneur in the forever evolving technology industry. She has created a name for herself not only by generating applications that have proven to enrich daily experiences, but also by being an advocate of all people. She strives for a bigger, better, and brighter future by bringing light to conflicting and often overlooked social and professional issues revolving around equality in the modern workplace. Here, she shares four ways that both technology companies and female workers can benefit from added diversity:
- They can adopt better parental leave policies. Part of the reason that technology jobs have trouble retaining women is that the maternity leave policies in place are often incredibly inflexible and make it difficult for working women to be full-time employees and care for their children.
Textio co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder conducted a study wherein she interviewed 716 women who had left the tech industry. Snyder reported that 484 of the women she surveyed had cited motherhood as a factor in their decision to leave; with 85 of them saying it was a “major factor” in their decision. Others noted that it wasn’t the lack of maternity leave that caused them to abandon their jobs, but somewhat inflexible hours, lack of suitable pay, and other related factors.
Google is one of the few major tech companies that offers paid maternity leave. Even in its early years, when it didn’t have revenue, founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided that they should extend maternity leave to Susan Wojcicki, the current CEO of YouTube. In an op-ed for Wall Street Journal, Wojcicki cited a study that showed that 91 percent of companies who have instated maternity leave had reported that it either had a positive effect or no effect at all on their profits. Additionally, Wojcicki said that when Google extended its maternity leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks, the turnover rate for working mothers was reduced by half. Paying for maternity leave was a smart move on Google’s part because replacing an employee costs more than paying for maternity leave.
In short, maternity leave not only benefits its female recipients but benefits the company as well. It’s a win-win situation that any wise company ought to start reaping the benefits of, sooner rather than later.
- Tech companies who can better accommodate women would reduce turnover. According to an article from ERE Media, replacing any employee often costs the company a fraction of that employee’s salary. Replacing an entry-level employee costs the company about 30 percent to 50 percent of that employee’s salary. Mid-level employees cost the company about 150 percent of their annual salary, and high-level, and executive employees cost a staggering 400 percent of their yearly salary to replace. The increasing costs of posting a job ad, searching for new candidates, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training certainly add up.
With all these crazy costs in mind, it’s fair to say that keeping an employee is much more cost efficient than replacing them. Unfortunately, many tech companies aren’t doing enough to retain their female workers. Women who have STEM jobs are 45 percent more likely to leave their careers within a year when compared to their male counterparts, according to an article from Fast Company. When Nadya Fouad, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, surveyed 5,300 women who earned engineering degrees within the past 60 years, she found that only 62 percent of them were still in their field. She claimed that hostile attitudes toward women were one of the main reasons that engineering has one of the highest turnover rates for women.
- Changing the culture would benefit everyone. The “boy’s club” mentality might not be everywhere in Silicon Valley, but many have indeed claimed to have experienced it. Just take the example of Isis Anchalee, the engineer who started the #ILookLikeAnEngineer hashtag to combat some of the sexism she says she had faced. (In one of her most egregious examples, someone tried stuffing dollar bills down her shirt.) Similarly, Pinterest engineer Tracey Chou has also reported several instances of sexism in her lifetime, consisting of things like male co-workers doubting her technical abilities.
Any company with an inclusive and welcoming culture is sure to thrive. Workers, who feel comfortable, are quite obviously more productive and therefore more profitable for the company. It should go without saying that workers who genuinely love and enjoy their job will work harder and are less likely to quit. Workers who are demotivated are less likely to come in on time or be productive, and more likely to take sick days off or leave their job for another one.
- It has been proven – “women in leadership roles make for more productive companies,” said Ahavel Aborishade. According to data from the Pew Research Center, most Americans see no difference between men and women when it comes to their leadership capabilities in business and politics. Those who did perceive that there was a difference were more likely to say that women were better at being honest, mentoring employees, and working out compromises. On the other hand, men were more likely to be seen as good negotiators and better risk takers.
One study by Credit Suisse observed the stocks of companies with a market cap of over $10 billion and found that those with at least one woman on board performed much better than companies with no women on board. The average difference in profits between the two types of companies was 26 percent. European companies with female board members had an average of 18 percent higher stock prices when compared to male-dominated companies. American companies with at least three women on board had an average of 20 percent better returns, while Asian-Pacific companies had an average of 55 percent better stock prices.