Tony Long, CEO, CPI Financial has a look at some of the challenges facing women’s rise in the workplace during the digital era
In Emily Chang’s excellent recent book Brotopia – Breaking up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley, she addresses the challenges facing women rising to the top in the very male-dominated culture of America’s West Coast digital industries.
Chang is a Bloomberg TV journalist and one of her goals is to see an equal representation of women on boards in companies of all sizes. In her book, she notes, “Getting to fifty-fifty is incredibly complex and nuanced, requiring many detailed solutions that will take decades to fully play out. To accelerate the process, change needs to start at the top.”
And whilst there are many enlightened Chairmen and CEOs out there who already understand this, and are proactively changing the make-up of their boards and the path to senior management for many of their female employees, there is no denying that there is still a long way to go. The digital corporates of California are pretty similar to the global banking industry in that regard. Succeeding at that level in this environment takes something special, especially if you combine the three elements of female, digital and corporate leader, but KPMG’s recently released survey—Global Female Leaders Outlook: The Digital Age - The Women’s Era— shows us clearly that female leaders are facing the challenges of a digital future with a very positive outlook and are well prepared for the challenges.
The vast majority of female leaders see digital disruption more as an opportunity than a threat and are comfortable making strategic decisions based on data-driven insights, as opposed to intuition. There are also some interesting differences in perspective with their male counterparts that say a lot about what women on the board bring to an organisation. For example, whilst 45 per cent of female leaders look to nurture business growth from their existing clients, this falls to 28 per cent of male CEOs, who presumably see the hunting of new business more appealing. Female leaders are also more likely to see digital innovation as helping their companies be more productive with what they already have—looking less at headcount growth and more at developing talent from within the organisation.
This is true especially when it comes to AI, where 62 per cent of male CEOs believe it will create more jobs, compared to 47 per cent of female leaders. The speed in which decisions have to be made in response to customer expectations, is constantly increasing, something that Angelika Huber-Straßer, Head of Corporates at KPMG in Germany acknowledges, adding “Female leaders possess the skills and the strength to lead their companies through these disruptive and exciting times.”
Susan Ferrier, Global Head of People, KPMG International adds, “Womens' voices are essential in bringing a more diverse and inclusive perspective. The global female leaders interviewed understand that leadership in the digital age must embrace diverse workforces to achieve enhanced business performance.” All this points to a future where the presence of women on company boards and their role in our digital futures will continue to benefit businesses of all kinds around the world.
But the last word should be left to Emily Chang. “First of all, people, be nice to each other. Treat one another with respect and dignity, including those of the opposite sex. That should be pretty simple. Stop making excuses for bad behaviour or ignoring it.” Could not have put it better myself!