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The past year has seen some remarkable movements bring gender diversity to the forefront. And while today’s headlines and trending topics on social media are driving more discussion around the topic of gender diversity, the reality is that there is still a troubling lack of it. This fact became even more transparent in the 2018 Harvey Nash / KPMG CIO Survey.

The survey, of nearly 4,000 IT leaders across 84 countries, asked participants the extent to which they believe inclusion and diversity in their technology team is important to achieving business and technology objectives.

With many published articles and studies stating the benefits of gender diversity, I expected to see a clear majority saying it is important. But the results were divided: 29 percent said it matters to a great extent, 47 percent to some extent, and 24 percent to little or no extent.

So almost a quarter of these leaders thought that inclusion and diversity was not an important issue, this despite a growing body of rigorous, fact-based research showing that it most certainly is. 

Let’s look at the facts:

Gender diversity is readily acknowledged these days, but few view it in the light it should be, a significant strategic advantage. Gender diversity can be the difference between an organization surviving and thriving. 

The International Monetary Fund discovered that programs that improve income generation for women can return 7 dollars (USD) for every dollar spent1. Overall, the global economy would see an increase of 5.3 trillion (USD) by 2025 if it closed the gender gap in economic participation by just 25 percent2.

According to the Harvard Business Review, when at least 30 percent of an organization’s executives are female, it leads to 15 percent gains in profitability and can be an advantage to recruiting and retention.

Finally, Catalyst research shows that companies with more women in executive positions have total returns to shareholders that are 34% higher than those that do not3.

Unfortunately on the gender front, IT still has a long way to go. The percentage of female IT leaders is rising – but very slowly. It now stands at 12 percent, a gain of only 2 percent over last year. Meanwhile, only 1 in 5 of technology teams are female.

Walking the walk:

Taking direct aim at the gender gap in technical professions, KPMG in the UK launched a program called ‘IT’s Her Future’. The purpose? To help level the playing field - to attract, empower and strengthen the skill sets of women in technology by offering them access to the training, networks and opportunities that can help advance their careers. 

IT’s Her Future has increased our female technology graduate intake from 30 percent to over 50 percent. Does this mean our work is done? Not by a longshot. There’s still so much progress to be made. One of the challenges that still remains is encouraging more women into STEM courses in school – equipping the younger generation with the knowledge and tools they need to better understand how a career in technology can play out and what skills they will need to pursue it. 

KPMG in the US has teamed up with Girls Who Code (GWC), a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in technology, to offer a Summer Immersion program for young women.

The seven-week program is led by a combination of teachers and KPMG leaders who are lending their professional insights and experiences to the program. In addition, academics from the KPMG Foundation's PhD Project, which recruits minority professionals from business into doctoral programs in all business disciplines, will also take part in the program.

Technology skills are critical to KPMG – and will be even more so in the next generation workforce – if KPMG is to attract the best talent to meet the rapidly evolving needs of clients.

The UK's focus on technology recruitment is part of KPMG's global efforts to attract the best talent required for the future of work and meet clients' needs.

Collectively, we have to get fully behind the diversity agenda. It’s not a check box exercise in political correctness. It’s not because it is the ‘right thing to do’. But because it is the ‘thing you must do now’ to build a brighter future for all. What you must do to deliver better results, to strengthen your innovation and creativity, and to enhance your talent attraction and retention. The #Futureisinclusive.

References

1IMF and Gender.

2Ibid.

3"The Business Case for Gender Diversity: Update 2017" – Huffington Post, April 30, 2017.

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