In the United Kingdom, women only make up 17% of IT roles. In the United States, the percentage is slightly higher at 25% and in South Africa only 13% of STEM graduates are women. Lorna Hardie, Regional Director Sub-Saharan Africa at VMware shares how the value that a person delivers to an organisation isn’t locked in their gender but in their attitude.

The gender gap still needs a few bridges built. It also needs to focus less on gender and more on the value. The value that comes from diversity – research has shown that there is a correlation between diversity and financial performance – and the value that comes from the insights offered by diversity.

An analysis of the value that diversity adds to the business by PwC found that it not only improved culture and innovation but that it played a significant role in improving the business bottom line. A work culture that embraces different cultures or genders or racial profiles is one that is more likely to innovate.

Differing viewpoints introduce fresh insights to problems and products, they also shift the collaboration dynamic and force people to think outside of their comfort zones. It may seem a small thing, but a room full of people from the same background, same racial group and same gender will see a problem with similar eyes. Introduce different viewpoints and suddenly there are new angles and ideas on the table.

Studies have repeatedly underscored the value of diversity in business when it comes to productivity and profitability but there is another side to the coin. The personal and the professional value that is introduced by women as they become a more integral part of the business.

Goodbye, gender stereotypes

It’s time to say a not-so fond farewell to the stereotypes that affect everyone across gender, culture and race. Women are too emotional or vulnerable for business. Men are too cold. The myths form a long line behind the old ways of thinking, but the reality is that they only affect the business that believes them. When it comes to the gender debate, the truth is that women have worked hard to achieve their goals and rarely show any form of vulnerability. This has resulted in strong women in leadership who find strength in sharing their experiences and reflecting on who they are as people.

The notion of women in the workplace as a rare phenomenon is fast dissipating. There has never been a better time to stop fixating on how many women there are in IT and instead to focus on the value they bring to the business.  Often women don’t recognise the value they bring and doubt themselves – this needs to change.

Many women have undertaken leadership roles and yet have flown under the radar. They prefer to just do their jobs and get things done rather than be in the spotlight. IT is changing and there has been a rise in roles that allow women to mentor others and guide them, just as they were mentored by other women and men as they rose through the ranks. Everyone has a different history and a different way of looking at the world and this is a huge advantage in business.

Value of inclusion, diversity

Companies such as VMware have long been aware of the benefits that come with a more inclusive corporate atmosphere. Women make up more than 50% of VMware’s executive management team – an impressive statistic that is the result of a targeted programme of inclusion.

The conversations that have traditionally labelled women as bad for business – sick children or issues with childcare – are just that, conversations. There’s no sense of concession because a member of staff has to work from home for the day. And VMware is not the only company paying attention to the value of diversity.  On the Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index there is an extensive list of companies ranked as the most diverse in the world and the names include Accenture, Novartis, HP and Woolworths as the most diverse in the world.

The wheel has definitely turned. Diversity has become the buzz word for success and its value doesn’t lie in pointing to gender or culture or race. It lies in harnessing the unique views, abilities and capabilities of every person in the company to disrupt the past and rethink the future. As the research has shown, diversity is the key to unlocking potential for organisation and individual. All it takes is being the business that embraces it.

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