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Diversity in the company: women - the minority in the tech industry

The digital economy likes to see itself as an industry in which a strong performance culture ensures that the most creative minds make a career and capital infallibly flows into the best ideas - regardless of who they come from. However, experience shows that this is only a wishful thinking, often to the detriment of companies and innovative strength.

The figures from the largest digital companies speak volumes: 84 percent of the development team at Facebook is made up of men, and at Google, 70 percent of the total workforce is male. "White men under 30 determine how we will communicate in the future, which services will be developed and which problems will be dealt with," said former Federal Minister of Economics Brigitte Zypries at the digital trade fair Cebit.

An exception is Kerstin Ewelt. She has had a steep career in Silicon Valley: in less than ten years, she made it from an entry-level job at Google, which 8,000 people do worldwide, to Head of Marketing at Quora. When she discovered her niche - she is a marketing specialist and knows the German market, where many tech companies want to expand - many doors were open to her. For her, one of the keys to success is being authentic. What your boss likes about her is that she has her heart on her tongue. “And you get recognition for showing your fragile side,” she says.

She also learned from her mentor, the former Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer, that this doesn't have to be a weakness. Her management style deviated radically from that of her predecessors. For example, she disclosed company processes to the workforce every Friday. With this uncompromising transparency, she has earned the admiration and sympathy of the employees. But Mayer remains an exception in the executive suite of digital corporations. And so there is still a lack of women in many companies who could help drive cultural change.

However, diversity is more than just a question of gender distribution. An unusual background or special wealth of experience also makes teams more colorful and therefore more productive. However, crooked résumés are not particularly well received in German companies, says Ewelt. Before embarking on her Valley career, she had worked for German media from “Bild” to “Berliner Zeitung” to “Frankfurter Allgemeine”. She recently gave a lecture on Quora in Germany. “A managing director came up and said: With your résumé you would no longer find a job in Germany. It's way too wild, ”she says. In the USA one is more open. An unusual résumé is a sign of flexibility and determination. These different requirements are one reason why she is still living in the USA after 14 years, although she originally only wanted to stay three years.

How corporations worldwide want to get more women into top management.

Ewelt's country comparison of the USA and Germany is not limited to the individual case, but is representative of companies of different sizes and different industries. This is especially true for the boss floors. In a study, the Allbright Foundation compared the 30 largest listed companies in France, Great Britain, Poland, Sweden and the USA. Germany brings up the rear. Only a good 12 percent of the board members of the 30 DAX companies are female (as of April 1). Germany is thus on a par with India and Turkey, with women making up around 10 percent of the management floor.

Companies such as the US corporations Apple, IBM and Coca-Cola or Hennes & Mauritz in Sweden, according to the information, already have significantly more than 30 percent women on the top floor. This also applies to L’Oréal and Danone in France, Unilever in Great Britain and Energa in Poland. In Germany, none of the major listed companies have 30 percent women on the management board. Germany is also the only country in the comparison where not a single top company is run by a woman.

Together with Prognos, Capgemini has examined the effects on the five core areas of work, mobility, migration and integration, health and old age as well as the requirements for the ecosystem Society 5.0.

In the startup scene, too, where many revolutionary ideas are emerging and large corporations have been cultivating ever closer relationships for a number of years, things are looking bad for female professionals and founders. "We know that women get bad venture capital," says Zypries. According to the latest Female Founders Monitor, less than ten percent of the funding invested in startups in Germany goes to female founders. Last year, only seven women were among the top 100 investors. Equally unevenly distributed are the opportunities among employed digital specialists.

In the digital economy, the unequal distribution of opportunities is particularly dangerous today, says Martina Koederitz, Global Industry Managing Director at IBM: “We are at the point where the digital economy is no longer just business, but is changing the world. We want to solve human problems, so we have to understand the different perspectives. ”Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and Big Data are just some of the technologies that are turning everyday life, the world of work and human interaction upside down. The digital change is not a purely technological or economic transformation apart from society, but fundamentally changes the framework conditions for our coexistence. This is confirmed by the Capgemini study “Society 5.0”, which for the first time examined digitization from a societal perspective.

The focus of the study is the question of the challenges. Diversity is one of them and it is not limited to the gender issue, as Capgemini shows in its employee structure. Active in 40 countries, the company's employees represent 120 nationalities and speak more than 100 languages. "For us, diversity in the workplace has many facets: gender and sexual orientation are just as much a part of it as age and health issues," says Capgemini and underlines the advantages of a diverse team. In order to interest more women in their own company, Capgemini offers targeted support programs and tries to get young women interested in MINT subjects at an early stage.

The advantages of diversity for companies, as also emphasized by Capgemini, can be precisely quantified. Studies repeatedly show that teams in which men and women, people from different cultures and those with a very different wealth of experience are represented, achieve greater added value for companies. The venture capitalist First Round Capital, for example, found that companies with female founders developed 63 percent better than startups with exclusively male founding teams.

Mixed teams are less likely to confirm each other's views and prejudices, and are less likely to get hypes that turn out to be empty promises. The herd instinct in Silicon Valley often ensures that an entire industry is chasing an idea - be it the app as a data vacuum cleaner or personalized advertising. But who says these solutions are the best? White men under 30, Zypries would say.

How can this culture be changed? "My conclusion from 20 years of federal and ten years of state politics is: It only works with binding rules," says Zypries. The state must lay down rules; at the same time, there is a need for companies that are committed to setting a good example. The minister would also like to see a certain amount of risk capital reserved for female entrepreneurs. “It would be nice if donors would commit to only investing in companies that have at least one woman on the founding team,” she says.

Business and politics must work together to ensure fair competitive conditions among founders and digital specialists. Only if the industry really reflects the diversity in society can the whole wealth of ideas of digital talent be unleashed.

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