International Women’s Day reflections
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
The 8th of March marks International Women’s Day (IWD).
This year’s official theme is #EmbraceEquity, and everyone is invited to collectively step forward together toward achieving a diverse, equitable and inclusive world. The UN Women and the United Nations are also celebrating under the theme DigitALL: innovation and technology for gender equality. Their focus is creating awareness about the persistent gender gap in digital access and how it keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential.
For organisations like RightBrains, it is an important observance to feature in terms of content. We see colourful graphics and images with positive messaging in celebration of the occasion from companies, thought leaders and supporters of IWD – which is wonderful and encouraging. But as the founder of a platform focused on bringing more women to digital technology, it’s an important day to ponder where we stand as the collective of women affiliated with digital tech as an enabler of business under both themes. Here are the four reflections I’d like to share with the hope that organisations will increasingly champion gender balance in the year to come and move beyond simply ‘celebrating’ the observance of International Women’s Day.
- Investing in people
- Creating an ideal climate for progress
- Diversity informs innovation
- Mentorship matters -- more than ever
Investing in people
I was recently asked by a colleague which companies I admire when it comes to promoting gender balance within the industry. At Rightbrains we are fortunate to partner with organisations that invest in people as a long-term strategic goal rather than a retroactive response to talent scarcity. We all know that there are bottom-line and performance-based advantages tied to more diverse teams, but often budgets for training and initiatives to develop diverse talent pools within organisations are sensitive when margins are under pressure. That’s why – even though intentions are good – government and the private sector are often grappling with issues relating to gender balance and sustainability.
It’s the companies that genuinely invest in people that I admire -- and who are actively moving the needle by exposing their employees to internal and external networks and resources that foster their ambition. It’s a dynamic landscape, and dizzying to think that RightBrains was initially founded back when certain career fields were seen as emerging trends; fields like cybersecurity, data science, modelling and AI. It was this growing gap that we sought to address in 2014 – and the market and need are still expanding rapidly. It’s important to celebrate the organisations that are genuinely seeking to impact the market positively and go beyond recruitment drives to nurture women’s careers that we are proud to partner with.
Creating an ideal climate for progress
I’d like to voice the call to organisations to focus on education and long-term investment informed by clear strategies in order to promote gender diversity with more urgency. In an ideal world, issues of this nature should not only be nestled in HR departments, but coordinated efforts must be made at a much higher management and board level. In her book, Beyond D&I: Leading Diversity with Purpose and Inclusiveness, author and fellow RightBrainer, Kay Formanek, writes: “The behaviours of leaders, be they executives or managers, can drive up to a 70% point of difference between the proportions of employees who feel highly included and those who do not.”
When looking at this mandate of managers to promote inclusion, it’s important for companies and leadership teams to look towards the future. There are currently tremendous strides being made in the bio-industry and medical sector in terms of innovation through digitisation and data, and it’s an ideal time for companies in emerging fields to set and pursue their D&I goals accordingly.
Diversity informs innovation
I can articulate my experience with women’s networks in two words: they are POWERFUL. I’ve seen innovation sprout forth from collaborations and connections perhaps even more effectively than when being driven by any specific organisation. This, in turn, has a spillover effect on other disciplines like sustainability and corporate social investment. In a recent Forbes article, the COO of Space Foundation, Shelli Brunswick, shares that solving earth’s greatest challenges will require diversity and inclusion to accelerate our path to solutions. She surmises: “We have to collaborate with one another on a global scale to appreciate what others offer. Not only will working together aid in innovation and economic development as well as diplomacy, but this is also how we empower women and other underserved groups. This is how we create change.” My hope is that women’s platforms like RightBrains will play a valuable role in connecting the minds and leaders who will be catalyst to these solutions.
Mentorship matters -- more than ever
In the Deloitte article ‘Cracking the code: How CIOs are redefining mentorship to advance diversity and inclusion’, the utilisation of different forms of mentorship to help attract, promote, and retain women in the workplace is named as a valuable tool CIOs are now leaning towards to ‘win the IT talent war’. I’m proud to say that the RightBrains platform is a valuable resource to connect mentors and mentees – and I’m looking forward to some fruitful relationships being cultivated as we launch our Mentoring Programme for 2023. The article gave me pause and reminded me that spaces, where women can be vulnerable and authentic, are more critical than ever. And I’m feeling elated about the contribution we can make towards a diverse, equitable and inclusive world.
International Women’s Day is a valuable opportunity for organisations to reflect on their diversity goals, and for women to consider their place and ambitions in their professional setting. I believe personally that great strides can be made toward a more gender-balanced digital technology industry – and RightBrains is poised to celebrate the allies, companies and leaders who are making powerful moves to bring this to fruition.