Uncovering the gap: Why the old-school numbers for women leaders in tech?

Posted by Dana Swanson Switzer, Jasmin Jacks, and Jessie Reese on January 24, 2018.

Often, point solutions don’t get to the core of the gender divide, even in one of the most innovative and progressive industries. What could it take to help create an environment that the new-age woman tech leader can thrive in?

The context

Gender diversity in the technology industry continues to be a rampant and highly public issue in today’s hyper-connected and volatile economic, socio-political, and global business climate. Various tech giants1 are being called on to answer to their employees, boards, and investors after highly publicized controversies have surfaced in the media.2 Companies such as Facebook have created and funded programs that address gender diversity and drive transparency, yet have experienced marginal improvements.3 Why the perennial problem? Because organizations are not addressing or ‘uncovering’ the core of the issue. Point solutions, diversity training, and women’s programs alone are not enough to move the dial. Organizations should look beyond point solutions and consider taking bold, targeted actions to address the biases and barriers that exist for women across the talent life cycle.

The business imperative

The 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age surveyed over 10,000 HR and business leaders, revealing that over two-thirds (69 percent) of respondents consider an inclusive culture with a diverse workforce and brand an organizational imperative. Research finds that gender diversity leads to higher performance, including increased profitability, return on equity, higher ability to innovate, and higher invested capital performance.4

Yet, the gap in workforce equality is widening. In tech, women account for just under one-fourth of the technology sector despite the fact they comprise about half of the available overall labor force.5 In leadership ranks, only 28 percent of executive, senior officer, and manager-level positions are women.6

Deloitte is often asked about building specific women leadership programs, sponsorship campaigns, or network groups to address this gap. These solutions alone do not always work. Companies can identify high potentials, develop them, and create mentors for women, but if those companies put them in an environment where they are not valued or accepted, why would they stay? Data tells us that they don’t.7

So, what can organizations do?

Invest the time to understand and address the real issues within your organization head-on. Here are a few ways to consider getting started:

  1. Level-set: Put an honest mark on the current state of diversity and inclusion in your organization. Objective assessments and talent data paired with interviews and focus groups can give you an honest baseline from which to drive true change.
  2. Target interventions: Implement immediate and long-term solutions to help your leaders of today become the inclusive leaders of tomorrow. An immersive lab experience,8 with a knowledgeable design person, can map out the talent experience of a company and identify the likely impacts on gender across the talent life cycle.
  3. Create accountability and transparency: Leverage analytics tools such as Business Outcome Modeling that enable continuous measurement of key inclusion performance indicators. Organizations can drive leadership accountability by demonstrating the importance of diversity and inclusion goals in generating positive business outcomes.
  4. Develop and activate leaders: Change starts from the top. Being an inclusive leader is a muscle that should be built and exercised at all levels to create systemic change. Inclusion lab experiences can help people at all levels understand how their own biases may impact talent decisions and business outcomes.
  5. Make it digital: Put innovative technologies and tools in place to enable decision making and practice reactions. Today, many recruiters and hiring managers have tools to help eliminate potential biases they may have. An example today is a program that anonymizes resumes by removing names, gender identifiers, and even the language in the job posting itself to maintain objectivity.
  6. Improve talent development programs: Build inclusivity into all milestone programs, training, and onboarding to continue development throughout.
  7. Grow a pipeline of women leaders: Look within the organization to identify, support, and sponsor the future—supporting high-potential female employees in their careers. Empower individuals at all levels to help unite and energize future women leaders.

These layered issues often benefit from an outside perspective. Organizations can start by engaging leaders in an immersive Inclusion Strategy Lab to help uncover the issues of today and work together to identify targeted opportunities and prioritize the actions that matter most to them.


 Dana Swanson Switzer is a senior manager and leader in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice focused on technology clients and the Digital Organization. She provides advisory support for leaders transforming their organization, including talent and leadership development, culture, and strategic change.

Jasmin Jacks is a manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital Practice, with more than eight years of experience in designing and delivering targeted talent, D&I, and HR strategies. She provides clients advisory support on the development of inclusion and talent strategies, D&I current state assessments, and inclusive leadership experiences. Jasmin is the Sales Lead for Deloitte’s D&I Center of Excellence.

 Jessie Reese is a manager in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Human Capital practice, focusing on leadership development, D&I, and enabling culture transformation. With a start-up upbringing and eight years in consulting, Jessie specializes in identifying cutting-edge leadership solutions that drive business results.

8A lab is a highly immersive environment facilitated by subject matter experts designed to enable rapid ideation, strategic thinking, and immersive learning to accelerate breakthroughs.

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