Today, gender diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords. That's great and long overdue. But while I applaud the rise of women-only conference panels and female investors funding women-led companies that have raised billions of dollars, I can't help but ask these questions:
Here's the Story That Led Me to Ask These Questions:
- Is it time to shift the conversation to gender inclusion so we don't create more silos in our society? After all, women coexist with men.
- By focusing more on women, are we sending the message that we support our daughters more than our sons?
Growing up in India, I wanted to be a doctor. However, I was led to believe that girls shouldn't have careers. Since then, I have had a career in technology and have the honor of sitting with entrepreneurs and senior leaders from many different countries and making critical business decisions with them. I have had the privilege of creating and managing gender-inclusive global teams that have delivered exceptional results, as well as designing science, technology, education, and math (STEM) programs for K-12 students that encourage them to become engineers and innovators.
So, despite my childhood, I am a productive contributor to the technology ecosystem, and I believe that an inclusive culture leads to better business results. In fact, inclusivity is a business imperative that has direct effects on a company's brand, growth, innovation, and hiring practices.
While many tech companies recognize the need to be gender inclusive, it can be a difficult concept to put into practice, mainly due to corporate culture. Business leaders need to rethink their inclusivity initiatives and develop ongoing campaigns as opposed to approaching it as a one-off project.
Here Are Some Tips to Drive Gender Inclusivity:
1. CEOs must drive diversity and inclusive initiatives.
According to a Deloitte survey
, inclusion has become a top priority for organizations, and 38% of executives report that the primary sponsor of the company's diversity and inclusion efforts is the CEO. This information is not a surprise. Like most major initiatives, a CEO needs to be an ambassador and show commitment to inclusiveness—from having a diverse board to creating working teams that are gender-balanced.
2. Create inclusive innovation teams.
Women's opinions are vital to every type of tech product design—from cars and wearable technology to mobile apps and enterprise software. Collaboration and different points of view lead to more creative and usable products, resulting in happy customers.
One of my pet peeves is the height of bar stools at panels. Many women, like me, have their legs dangling from the stools as we passionately share our thoughts with the audience, diluting our authority.
And, what about not having a place to put our purse in cars? Women's purchasing power is estimated
to represent as much as $15 trillion. Instead of relying on market data, let's start the conversation with women during the design process, and get their perspectives early.
3. Have a diverse management team.
If you decide to become an entrepreneur, consider asking a woman to join you on your innovation journey, and make sure your management team includes women. When you have female and male co-founders, and their roles are defined, the results are tremendous for the business.
In addition to having more doors open—from funding to visibility—you'll also get different points of view to make better business decisions and grow the product line.
4. Support STEM education for all.
Many companies sponsor or support various girls and STEM programs. Why not support or create STEM programs that encourage both girls and boys? Teach them to work together and solve problems together, from building drones and robots to taking part in various competitions. Encouraging them to celebrate each other's successes will make them more likely to pursue STEM careers and create more lifesaving solutions and innovations.
5. Teach children to appreciate diversity.
Blessed with two kids, I have had the pleasure of seeing my daughter and son grow up into well-adjusted human beings who interact well with everyone. As parents, I feel it's our duty to coach our kids to respect all and give them opportunities to play together so they learn to collaborate. Let's also assign the same chores to both, from washing dishes to taking out the trash.
In short, inclusion must begin at the top and at home. Perhaps one day we'll see every cabinet being gender-balanced and all tech companies with women of equal power. In reality, this may not happen in our lifetime, but we can continue to march in this direction.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com
Parna Sarkar-Basu is VP of marketing at WITI and CEO of Brand and Buzz Marketing.
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