The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the primary global intergovernmental body responsible for promoting gender equality and empowering women. It also happens to be the second-largest gathering in the annual calendar of the United Nations. The CSW was established in 1946 as part of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with the goal of examining the political, economic, social and educational rights of women.
Every year, representatives from member states gather to discuss gender equality issues, what progress has been made and the challenges that remain, with the hopes of turning these discussions into tangible policies to actively promote gender equality.
This year, the 67th session of the CSW, will take place between March 6th-17th and will address the topic of “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age.”
March 8th marks international women’s day and aligned with the agenda of the CSW-67, this year’s theme is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” This theme reflects on the many aspects of technology and gender equality, both the challenges and the opportunities. Some of the topics include the need for transformative technology and digital education for women, the impact of the digital gender gap on deepening economic and social inequalities and the importance of protecting women and girls in digital spaces.
This article will focus on one aspect of this topic - women in tech. We will examine what the tech industry currently looks like as far as gender inclusivity. We will offer ideas for companies who wish to minimize the gender gap in their organization and introduce some thoughts and insights on the topic from some of our very own talented women working at ESGgo.
Women in tech
Over the past century, women's presence and impact in the workforce have evolved immensely. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019, 57.4% of all women participated in the labor force. Even though the pandemic set back women’s participation, in 2022, women still accounted for nearly half of the entire global workforce.
Despite the dramatic developments from a couple of generations ago, women still face challenges with gender equality across all industries. Among some of the notorious challenges are the gender pay gap, underrepresentation in leadership roles and gender-based discrimination.
Even though women make up over half of the general workforce, the tech industry doesn't reflect it. According to a 2020 report from National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), even though women comprise 57% of the total workforce, women make up only 26% of the US computing workforce. According to McKinsey & Company, women occupy only 22% of tech roles in European companies.
The underrepresentation of women in tech should be on every company's agenda. Closing the gender gap is not only the right thing to do but is also an economic necessity. Diversity in the workforce is proven to bring new perspectives and drive innovation and creativity, lead to better decision-making and improve financial performance.
The World Economic Forum states that advancing women’s employment could increase the global GDP by $12 trillion. This logic also applies to the tech industry- according to Mckinsey, if Europe could increase the percentage of women in the tech workforce to 45%, this could close the gender gap and increase the GDP by up to 600 billion Euros.
Companies that promote gender equality and diversity benefit significantly financially. It also improves the company’s ESG score and proves they are a lessened long-term risk and that they take their social responsibility very seriously.
We practice what we preach
At ESGgo, gender equality is on our agenda all year long, as it is also a major part of the S in ESG.
As a start-up, it was imperative that we ingrain gender equality into our culture from the very beginning. Being led by a woman founder and CEO who advocates for other women was a terrific start. For gender equality to truly be a part of our company’s DNA, it has to be supported by ongoing efforts, starting with recruiting and sustaining an inclusive and diverse environment where employees’ needs are heard.
We are proud that 50% of our workforce are women, including in technological positions. We believe this encourages women who might be hesitant to fit into what are typically male-dominant teams.
Nitzan, one of our brightest stars on our data team, believes that bias starts at a young age. “I remember joining a robotics elective class in high school and that it was perceived as odd, as it was considered a masculine subject. There were very few girls in my class. I think that today still, there is a certain bias as to what is considered masculine or feminine subjects and roles, which can cause young girls to choose not to pursue a technological career”.
Nitzan’s experience and intuition regarding gender bias in roles can be easily backed by research. Studies show that girls tend to lose interest in technology as they grow older, typically around middle school. STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) are often viewed as masculine subjects and it is not uncommon for girls to lose confidence in these subjects during elementary school. When boys are typically more encouraged to pursue STEM success than girls, the gender gap only deepens and the biased perception of these fields is further cemented into our culture. When only 20% of computer science and 22% of engineering undergraduates in the US are women, it is no wonder this manifests in the workforce.
Maayan, from our engineering team, indicates that the challenge with software engineering being considered a masculine field might produce the prevalent imposter syndrome women often feel. In addition, as people naturally find it easier to connect to their peers who they find common ground with, the male majority in the field gives men the advantage of networking and fostering meaningful connections or even finding mentorships. It is crucial we see more women represented, not only in teams but also in management positions.
Revital, our newest addition to the engineering team, says that when she shared with her friends she would be working for a company run by a woman CEO, she was caught off guard by the range of reactions, “everyone was impressed or even surprised. I didn’t realize that some people perceive a woman founder as something that is out of the ordinary”.
For some, seeing women in management and leadership roles can be an incentive to join a company. For Maayan, the leadership at ESGgo was a source of comfort. “I feel that Orly (CEO) has made it her personal goal to be a role model for supportive and pleasant leadership. She gives the feeling that we can always turn to her for any issue, question or even just for an exchange of ideas. she is truly invested in what we, the women of the company, have to say and how we feel”. For Meital our ESG Expert, this was “definitely an important motivation to join”.
Revital also emphasized that to her, the true indicator for diversity is not only in hiring statistics but turnover rates as well. Companies should mind not only how many women they employ but how many women they sustain and promote within their organization.
High turnover rates for women could indicate a number of issues, such as problematic company culture, a lack of promotion opportunities or simply burnout. Having a positive and encouraging work environment that prioritizes the needs of employees is fundamental to avoiding burnout. “We all work very hard and very long hours. But I feel real support from my management and know I can count on them to monitor my well-being, as well as my performance,” says Danielle, Chief of staff to the CEO.
What else can companies do?
Promoting diversity and inclusion has many benefits, not only for your company’s performance and overall ESG posture but for the well-being of your employees as well.
Here are some ways to promote gender equality in your organization and better support your female workforce:
- Promote your women- according to McKinsey, only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men. Providing equal opportunities in senior-level positions will also encourage junior-level women to stay motivated and engaged.
- Support your employees- Women experience higher rates of burnout than men. Check to see how you can support their efforts if it is by offering flexibility, remote work or other benefits. Have conversations and check-ins on a recurring basis.
- Develop a maternity leave policy - as it is crucial to take into account the specific needs of your employees, supporting them through parenthood is imperative.
- Guarantee equal pay- according to an NCWIT report, women in computing roles earn 81% of what their male counterparts earn for the same position.
- Provide mentorship opportunities- check to see how you can foster mentorship within your organization or find support externally for the women in your workforce, as they are likely to be at a disadvantage when it comes to networking, as Maayan mentioned.
- Don’t leave room for workplace discrimination- cement diversity, inclusion and kindness into your culture and practices. Create an environment where employees of all genders, ages, sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities or backgrounds can feel safe and heard.
There is still much to be done before we see true gender equality in the workforce. Nothing moves us more than seeing more and more young women turn to technological roles. We hope to see these women later become founders or CEOs of strong, sustainable and socially responsible industry leaders.
*Disclaimer: This summary is for general education purposes only and may be subject to change. ESGgo, Inc., and its affiliates (the “Company”, “ESGgo”, “we”, or “us”) cannot guarantee the accuracy of the statements made or conclusions reached in this summary and we expressly disclaim all representations and warranties (whether express or implied by statute or otherwise) whatsoever.