Gender in Tech
Gender-Diversity Could be Holding IT Industry Back in Innovation
Many businesses have found themselves vulnerable to data breaches within the recent years, with the stat of afflicted companies on the rise. The lack of a gender-diverse workforce could be holding the tech industry back from creating the innovative solutions needed to curb this problem.
Tampa Bay, FL Currently, only 15% of technical roles are held by women (1), demonstrating a lack of gender-diversity that could be holding the industry back when it comes to innovation. The National Center for Women & Information Technology reports that an analysis of 2,360 companies found that those companies with women on their executive boards outperformed companies will all-male executive boards. Furthermore, gender-diverse management teams showed superior return on equity, debt/equity ratios, price/equity ratios, and average growth. (2) Monica Eaton-Cardone, founder and CIO of Global Risk Technologies, most well known by its US counterpart, Chargebacks911, insists that costly mistakes could be prevented if the IT world was more diverse.
According to a 2014 survey of 567 U.S. executives conducted by the Ponemon Institute, 43% of companies had data breaches in the past year, a 10% increase from the prior year. Even high profile companies such as Target, PF Changs and Goodwill were on the receiving end of data breaches, highlighting the need for innovation in this arena. Yet despite the rise in security breaches, 27% of companies surveyed didn't have a data breach response plan in place. The Ponemon Institute survey found that even among companies that do have data breach plans in place, employees are not convinced that they will work. Only 30% of those responding to the survey said that their organization was “effective or very effective” at creating such plans. (3)
Eaton-Cardone says that having more gender-diverse teams in the IT industry could help create effective solutions in protection against data breaches. Cybercrime costs approximately $12.7 million per year, with smaller businesses being hit harder than large business. (4) Per Eaton-Cardone, the innovation created from gender-diverse teams could help curb this annual hemorrhaging of funds due to cybercrime.
Data breaches are not the only issue when it comes to unwanted collection of personal information. Data brokers are able to gather hyper-specific personal information from consumers and sell it to marketers. The FTC recently called for legislation to bring transparency to the multibillion-dollar data-broker industry in order to give consumers more control over how their data is being used. (5) However, legislation may not be enough to protect consumers from the mining of personal information by data-brokers. Eaton-Cardone suggests more innovation in the private sector would create products and systems to protect consumers from having their personal information sold to a third-party company.
“The only way we are going to see these solutions come about is by having a fresh point of view in tackling the issue,” says Eaton-Cardone. “Since women are the majority consumers, women have more of a vested interest in solving the problem.”
Gender-diverse teams increase innovation as men and woman bring different viewpoints, ideas and insights into the workplace, all of which enable better problem solving. Diversity is crucial to creative development, and gender-diverse teams provide a wider industry knowledge. The additional benefit to gender-diverse teams is that they attract and retain talented women in the workplace. As the IT industry currently lacks a strong female presence, gender-diverse teams can go a long way in bridging this gap. (6)
Eaton-Cardone, a long-time advocate of women in business, joins the minority of women who hold an executive position in a technical field. In 2012, only 30% of CIO jobs at Fortune 250 companies were held by women. (7) Eaton-Cardone is able to excel at her position of CIO despite lacking a formal background in IT. Eaton-Cardone founded Chargebacks911 to address an unmet need in the credit card industry, then taught herself how to build the IT component required to support the business. Through her work in putting processes in place to help merchants and banks achieve sustainable payment-processing practices, Eaton-Cardone has earned a reputation for creative business solutions.
“Gender should not stop anybody from pursuing their dreams,” says Eaton-Cardone. “If we can encourage men and women to work together, not only will we be able to make major innovations in the tech world, we'll be nurturing female talent in the process.”