THE IT INDUSTRY—which skews predominantly male—is particularly challenged to create a gender-diverse workforce. Given that it's hard enough to find qualified candidates in general in this tight labor market, recruiting women is especially daunting. Yet the effort to hire and promote women is well worth it for the channel, advocates say, given the need now and for the foreseeable future for an ever-expanding pool of IT talent and the benefits reaped from a diverse workplace.
Indeed, research provides compelling evidence that gender diversity is great for the bottom line. According to McKinsey & Company, organizations in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above the median for their industry. A study by the Boston Consulting Group reveals that companies with above-average diversity on their management teams reported 19% higher innovation-related revenue than companies with below-average leadership diversity. In addition, innovation at diverse companies accounted for 45% of total revenue compared to just 26% at more uniform companies.
"Having a more diverse team leads to a broader set of ideas and inputs that ultimately brings more innovation," says Tamara Prazak, director of channel strategy and marketing at Cyxtera Technologies, a data center colocation company. Prazak also serves on the leadership team at Cloud Girls, a nonprofit community of women technology advocates.
In effect, gender diversity can lead to a better understanding of a company's customers and more relevant products and services as well, according to Amy Kardel, vice president of strategic workforce relationships at CompTIA, the computing industry association based in Downers Grove, Ill. "A gender-diverse IT company is more reflective of the client base," says Kardel, who is also co-founder of Clever Ducks, an IT services provider in San Luis Obispo, Calif. "If you're looking at who your clients are, and not matching them in demographics, you're missing the boat in understanding them."
Catherine Ashcraft agrees. "It's important to have the people inventing technologies be as diverse as the people that need, use, and benefit from technologies," stresses Ashcraft, senior research scientist at the National Center for Women & Information Technology, a nonprofit advocacy group in Denver.
Gender diversity creates a more satisfying work environment too, according to Amy Bailey, vice president of marketing at telecom master agent Telarus, and current president of the Alliance of Channel Women. "If I walk into an organization with people who have similar backgrounds to me, it just feels more cohesive to me as a place to work," she says. That comfort level translates into "better sales, better transactions, and better long-term customer retention, as well as employee retention," she says.
Having happy employees often leads to more productivity and longevity as well—metrics that deliver financial benefits to organizations.