31 Oct 18|Innovation

The question now is what can we do to be 10x better and 10x more supportive of women in digital industries, women entering leadership positions, and in supporting women onto board positions?

In September I made a 3.5-day visit to Madrid. It was a long 24-hour flight there and a seemingly longer 24-hour flight back. I spent 8 hours in total sight-seeing and the rest of the time working with an amazing group of women who want to even up the gender imbalance on boards and in start-ups. Globally. There is a vast career chasm between female board members and female start-up founders. But the inequality is screamingly obvious in both.

Collaboration was abundant. It is also essential in The Age of Innovation. Many countries, cities, businesses, corporations and start-ups spruik innovation. The organisers of this conference lived and breathed it. The absence of ego and a common purpose was the drive behind the success of the event. 

There were speakers from ten countries, representing major corporations including Repsol, Fujitsu, Deloitte, Santander and L’Oreal. The conference was sold out. Twice over.

I was a facilitator at the Inspiring Women Leadership in the Digital Era conference in Madrid, doubling as a female speaker with an Australian perspective on gender equality/inequality. What became clear, listening and facilitating the discussions, was that that support for female leaders and start-ups with female founders is top dependent! And the problems are universal.

Margaret Chen, President of China Club, said there are more female CEO's in China than in the USA and the UK combined. The Chinese government is committed to supporting female founders. According to an article in Fortune written by Nina Easton, “in China, some 550 publicly-traded companies, or about 21%, have women on their boards. And Shenzhen-based Ceetop Inc. and China Teletech Holding Inc. are two of the four companies in the world with all-female boards”. 

Isobelle Hoyer is Founder and CEO of PANDA, the Women Leadership Network, in Berlin. PANDA connects female leaders with female leaders for mutual support and connects female leaders with companies seeking to engage leaders. 

Isobelle believes the 30% target set for women on advisory boards in Germany by 2020 is not good enough. "We are 50% of the population, we are aiming for 50% female board membership". 

Emilia Sanchez from Spain confirmed the stereotypes embedded in many cultures are affecting the roles women play and the support they receive. 

What is slightly disturbing is that Cristina Magdalena, Head of Digital Transformation, Fujitsu Global said the company is ahead of the rest of the world in attitude. Women taking up 10% of board positions, is seen as a major cultural shift in Japan. At 10%? 

And in Australia? According to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the percentage of women on ASX 200 boards was just 8.3% in 2009. In August 2018 they reported that women on ASX 200 boards was now 28.5%. Outside of the ASX, women represent about 25.2% of all board positions in Australia.

Comparatively, globally, it would seem we are faring quite well. Yet women are 50% of the population. I am not an advocate of hiring on gender. I advocate hiring on merit and suitability. I do not believe that women are 25% less suitable or capable for board and leadership positions than men. The law of averages states that 50:50 is where the male: female ratio should sit.

And the figures on start-ups? Forbes reported that “Start-up companies with female founders almost universally outperformed their male-only counterparts” and that the “fastest growing companies at 200%+ growth, are 75% more likely to have a female founder”.

In a study conducted in 2017 by the Boston Consulting Group, it was reported that although investment in female-led start-ups was significantly lower than in male founded start-ups (by more than 50%), female led start-ups generated $US0.78 of revenues while male-founded start-ups generated $US0.31. 

Does this mean we need to forget about male-led start-ups and focus in on ones that are female-led? I don’t think so. What is highlighted is that diversity is, was and always has been, the key to success. And that diversity should include race, age and ability.

The question now is what can we do to be 10x better and 10x more supportive of women in digital industries, women entering leadership positions, and in supporting women onto board positions?

And as for the conference? Unleash collaboration for a global cause and anything is possible. Bring like minds together to highlight issues and change follows. Open hearts and minds to what is possible, and impossible disintegrates.
 

The question now is what can we do to be 10x better and 10x more supportive of women in digital industries, women entering leadership positions, and in supporting women onto board positions?

The question now is what can we do to be 10x better and 10x more supportive of women in digital industries, women entering leadership positions, and in supporting women onto board positions?

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