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What have we lost?
It’s simply not possible to accurately measure the massive opportunity cost resulting from the declining participation rate of women in technology. Where would the industry be today if women were prominent in each of these cohorts over the whole period (as is the case for men)?
Who might have been the women bosses during 50s, 60s and 70s? What might have been invented by women inventors and builders if that first cohort had sustained and renewed itself into 80s, 90s and the new millennium? And perhaps most significant of all, how might women have worked to build capability and agitate for change and so shaped the industry differently if they’d been present all along?
Among the research showing diverse teams perform better and build communities that thrive is McKinsey’s report Diversity Matters.
In that research, Tracy Chou, Co-founder of advocacy group Project Include, says: “the quality, relevance, and impact of the products and services output by the technology sector can only be improved by having the people who are building them be demographically representative of the people who are using them.”
I believe in celebrating the contributions of women it technology, we can hope to inspire more women. If they’re to pick up and carry the torch it’s vital women can see themselves reflected in the industry’s role models and successes.
We need to find and lionise recent examples of the builders and coders and engineers. Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Hedy Lamarr – while absolutely brilliant and deserving women – are no longer with us (the youngest of these was born in 1914). Where are the cool, relatable women in tech being celebrated for this generation and the next to look up to?
On International Women’s Day we are reminded only a conscious and sustained effort to improve the experience of women in IT workforces – across the industry, globally – will reverse the longstanding trend that has seen fewer women choosing and sticking with a career in IT.
Who knows maybe a modern day Ada Lovelace will be among them.
Maryann Jamieson is Domain Lead, Business Automation & Integration Technology and Executive Sponsor for ANZ’s Women in Technology Network