Men­tor­ship key to at­tract more women to tech firms

Khaleej Times - - MARKETS - — rohma@khalee­j­ Rohma Sadaqat

Hav­ing a men­tor who you can re­late to, as well as a good com­pany cul­ture are just some of the ways with which tech com­pa­nies can at­tract more women to­day, ex­perts at Gi­tex Tech­nol­ogy Week 2017 noted.

Speak­ing at a panel ses­sion on driv­ing in­no­va­tion through di­ver­sity, An­vita Varsh­ney, co­founder and in­vest­ment com­mit­tee mem­ber of Dubai An­gel In­vestors, noted that women, es­pe­cially those in the tech in­dus­try, face a lot of chal­lenges. This was de­spite the fact that there is con­crete proof that hav­ing women in the work­force im­proves a com­pany’s per­for­mance.

“There con­tinue to be a lot of un­con­scious bi­ases that women in the tech in­dus­try face,” she said. “When you are en­tre­pre­neur, you will find that fund­ing is very hard to come by. Many men will re­ceive fund­ing over women, even if their pitch for an idea is the very same. What is great about hav­ing women in a com­pany, I be­lieve, is that women bal­ance logic with in­stinct.”

In ad­di­tion, she noted that these bi­ases don’t stop when a women reaches a po­si­tion of lead­er­ship.

“Men that report to a women, who is their se­nior, of­ten un­der­mine and don’t re­spect their au­thor­ity. In meet­ings, if you are soft, then you are con­sid­ered weak, and if you are strong, then you are con­sid­ered to be very ag­gres­sive.”

Dina Tamimi, di­rec­tor of Fu­ture City, Honey­well, noted that early on, par­ents have a duty to teach their chil­dren that it is okay for girls to go into fields that are male dom­i­nated. These are not just STEM fields, but can even be sports that are tra­di­tion­ally seen as a man’s do­main.

Tamimi’s words were echoed by Deanna Kosaraju, founder and CEO of Global Tech Women, who noted that there is a wealth of data that has been com­piled by rep­utable agen­cies which shows that hav­ing a di­verse work­force is bet­ter for per­for­mance. She also noted that there are sev­eral myths, which still stand to­day, yet couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth when it comes to en­trepreneur­s.

“The ge­nius myth tells us that in­no­va­tion hap­pens among young, white men in hood­ies in col­lege dorms; they are usu­ally alone and code up­wards of 20 hours a day. This is a myth that is preva­lent in Sil­i­con Val­ley; that these are the type of vi­sion­ar­ies that will get funded to make their vi­sion a re­al­ity,” she said.

Michelle Wu, CIO of GE Power Ser­vices, noted that men­tor­ship helps to re­solve a lot of prob­lems that women face, es­pe­cially when it comes to de­vel­op­ing self-con­fi­dence.

“Sta­tis­tics show that many women, ir­re­spec­tive of which field they are in, will drop out of the work­force by the time they reach mid­dle man­age­ment. When it comes to STEM fields, in 10 years time, you can be cer­tain that one in three women will leave their STEM ca­reers. This is a scary statis­tic be­cause it is hard enough to get them into the fields in the first place. When you ask them why they dropped out, they will say that it is be­cause of a sense of iso­la­tion and a lack of be­long­ing,” she said.

Par­tic­i­pants of panel dis­cus­sion on ‘Driv­ing in­no­va­tion through di­ver­sity’.

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