No more buts, give more women a seat at the tech high table
It’s no secret that women are still quite at a disadvantage, even in these modern times and despite their capabilities.
After all these years, women are still fighting for gender equality in the workplace. And the tech industry—which ushered the world into the 21st century, transformed the way we live, and helped open our eyes to different realities segments of society—is ironically one of the glaring areas where women are underrepresented and often ignored for promotions.
The numbers don’t lie.
A study by the Pew Research Center showed that in the United States, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs have grown 79 percent since 1990 and even outpaced other job sectors. In fact, technology or computing is the highest paying and fastest-growing of the four. However, only 25 percent of computing jobs were given to women, a huge drop from 32 percent in 1990. What’s more, data from Statista revealed that Big Tech companies Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft only have a female workforce of about 34.4 percent women.
And when we climb up the tech ladder, we’ll notice that the number will even go down further. Catalyst reported that only 26.5 percent of executive, senior level and management positions in S&P 500 companies are held by women, a percentage tech companies try to match or exceed. It’s no wonder why many women in tech companies have reported gender discrimination and even sexual harassment.
Another Pew Research Center report found that 74 percent of women in computing jobs said they had experienced gender discrimination at work. Some have complained about receiving lesser pay than their male counterparts. Despite the fact that the technology sector generally pays higher than any other fields, Pew Research Center also found out that women in this industry only earn 87 percent of what men earn.
It’s really such a shame that the tech industry in general hasn’t given as much importance to women when various studies have confirmed their lasting positive impact in companies they’re part of. They can help produce smart and better results as they can provide another point of view and also increase revenue as women control a majority of consumer spending.
Allow me to illustrate this further and take Angela Ahrendts, the former senior vice president at Apple and CEO of Burberry, as an example. During her tenure at Burberry, she revitalized the brand from an aging British fashion brand to a global luxury sensation. The company’s value rose to over £7 billion from £2 billion under her leadership. Her contributions were valuable enough that she was named the highest paid CEO in the United Kingdom with $26.3 million.
Ahrendts did all of these by giving another point of view and directing the company to infuse tech with fashion, investing in digital marketing, e-commerce, in-store technology—which was considered revolutionary during her time. When she moved to Apple, the company saw her undisputed value that she became its highest paid executive, taking in $24.2 million in 2017 alone, which was twice as much as Apple CEO Tim Cook earned.
Ahrendts is not alone in proving the impact of women in leadership roles, especially in tech. This has also been demonstrated over and over again by the likes of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, Canva’s Filipino-Australian cofounder and CEO Melanie Perkins, and so much more. Through their leadership, they were able to propel their respective companies to greater heights. All these and more underline the fact that there’s simply no logical reason why women shouldn’t be given their rightful places at the tech high table.
Viber, where I serve as the chief growth officer, has also worked hard to build an environment that encourages women to thrive. In fact, nearly 50 percent of Viber employees are females, which is quite a difference from the 34.4 percent of females in the workforce of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft as mentioned earlier. In the Philippines for instance, we’ve let an all-women team take the reins, and they didn’t disappoint.
Through their valuable contributions and efforts in forging new partnerships and acquiring and retaining users, the Philippines became one of Viber’s most important growth markets. The company, of course, recognized the capabilities of this team and even promoted Viber Philippines’ former marketing manager Lana Macapagal as the PR manager for the whole Asia-Pacific region.
Ahrendts, my female colleagues at Viber, and all the women in tech have further instilled in me that women shouldn’t be treated as mere tokens of gender diversification. They shouldn’t be told to act a certain way because there should be no need for them to adapt to a male-dominated environment. Instead, they should be emboldened to just be their authentic, creative selves.
And when women are valued, supported, heard and treated as equals, they can be their best selves and become the most valuable players in their workplaces, capable of solving the world’s most complicated problems and steering the wheel of their company’s growth.
To quote the late United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
And those places should definitely include Silicon Valley and wherever tech companies take root and reshape our future. Women—with all their intellect, creativity, strength, and contribution—deserve nothing less.