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Encouraging women to take the lead within digital transformation projects

Sue-Ellen Wright, Managing Director of Sopra Steria's Aerospace Defence and Security Business.

Transformation in the digital-first world has become business-critical for companies, no matter what industry they’re in. It gives organisations the ability to better address customer needs, enhance how they function, and improve their overall offerings.

This change has, unsurprisingly, been accelerated due to the pandemic, which has vastly altered how businesses and consumers operate. In fact, a new report has found the pandemic accelerated 84% of enterprise organisation’s digital transformation plans. To add to this, an IDC report predicts that direct digital transformation investment will total over $6.8 trillion between 2020 and 2023.

It is evident the opportunity in digital transformation is great, however the number of women who lead digital transformation projects is worryingly low. Consequently, there is a lack of representation of women in these roles, something which needs to change. Empowering women to enter the digital transformation industry will not only provide teams with new outlooks and skills, but it will also help pave the way for more women to confidently enter both STEM and leadership jobs.

Considering diversity in teams

As digital transformation is predicted to continue, businesses must adapt to the new world of work – it’s no longer an extra, but a crucial component to create social and economic progress. However, to succeed, organisations must deliver transformation initiatives ethically.

This involves being considerate of the backgrounds, lifestyles and capabilities of team members, as well as taking into account gender diversity, alongside other identity markers. Having diversity within a team is beneficial as it encourages a range of perspectives which can enhance creativity and the development of transformation projects.

Laying a path for women to lead transformation projects

This diverse workforce is especially important within the technology industry, which lacks an equal gender balance and boasts predominantly male leadership teams. Despite there being a push to encourage girls to study STEM subjects, the percentage of women in the UK tech industry has only grown from 15.7% in 2009 to 17% in 2021. Moreover, in 2021 it was reported that just 10% of leadership roles in the industry were held by women.

Therefore, in both business transformation projects and leadership, specific jobs need to be fostered for women, whether that’s creating more of them, or providing opportunities and supportive networks for women throughout their careers. There are a number of barriers which need to be overcome in order for there to be more gender diversity in the technology sector though.

Firstly, it’s often difficult for women to professionally progress given they are often bypassed for promotions and new roles due to the strong misconception that they’re too busy with the domestic duties and caring for children. Additionally, women tend to apply to fewer jobs than men. For example, LinkedIn reported that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men, and that recruiters are 13% less likely to click on a woman’s profile when she shows up in search.

Statistics like these show the recruitment process must also be reviewed if we are to find, attract, and retain more female talent. Job adverts must also be made inclusive to attract more female applicants, and recruiters need to become better at removing their biases (both conscious and unconscious) when assessing applications. If positive steps are taken to attract more female candidates, the gender balance in recruitment pipelines will improve and we will see the number of women naturally increase.

The importance of role models

Another important step the tech industry needs to take to encourage greater diversity in their workforce is to publicly commit to empowering women. This is a great way to ensure they stay accountable to their goals and signals to female employees that they will be respected and valued. Initiatives, like Sky’s 'Get into Tech’ programme, offer women the opportunity to develop the skills needed to kickstart their careers in tech.

Furthermore, directing attention to women already in leadership provides others and younger women with role models to look up to. This can make female leaders more accessible and visible, and inspire both current and future generations. Acknowledging and celebrating a diverse range of women in business can also help to tackle imposter syndrome while facilitating a fair work culture.

Final thoughts

Although, the gender imbalance in the tech sector will not be solved overnight, organisations can act immediately by supporting women at all levels, whether this is through creating opportunities and providing support, or opening up more gender diverse senior roles. Doing so will not only empower women to lead digital transformation projects in the here and now, but will also create future opportunities for younger generations.

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