Mentorship key to attract more women to tech firms
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’.