Why diverse teams drive innovation and success
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Why diverse teams drive innovation and success

Why diverse teams drive innovation and success

There is a growing recognition of the importance of inclusivity in the workplace

Gulf Business

Women and other minority groups have long been underrepresented in the world of technology, despite the significant contributions they have, and continue to make.

As someone who works in the tech industry, I have firsthand visibility on where there can be challenges that women face in traditionally male-dominated environments.

There have been positive steps made towards better diversity and representation, driven by the active focus on DE&I, however there is still work to do to unlock the full potential of women in tech. This topic is particularly relevant this year, as the UN chose it as a theme for this International Women’s Day, DigitALL: innovation and technology for driving gender equality.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, women currently account for just 22 per cent of the global workforce in the tech industry.

In MENA, according to PWC’s 2022 women in work survey – a larger female workforce overall could lead to an estimated GDP increase of US $2tn.

In the tech industry in particular, young women may find it difficult to envision themselves in long-term careers and become discouraged from pursuing the field altogether, as they have no senior female role models to look up to. This is one of the key barriers for women in tech and a self-perpetuating cycle, unless we take action to break the wheel to pioneer change.

Going a step further, women who are already working in tech may not have a mentor or relatable role model that can understand their perspective and challenges, which can stifle future women leaders.

To overcome this, I would encourage women to proactively identify a mentor either within their company or simply a group of older friends with similar life experiences who can share insight and help them grow. Otherwise, there is a rising number of third party initiatives that are focused on empowerment, such as mentorship programmes, networking groups, and advocacy organisations that bring together a cross-section of women to promote gender diversity and equality within the industry.

Another hurdle that women face is gender bias. The old adage that women are expected to work as if they don’t have children and mother as if they don’t have a career is a common experience for many women in the workforce. Two important considerations are flexibility and support at home. Flexible work arrangements and schedules such as hybrid work and calendar blocks for personal time, allow employees to balance their professional and personal responsibilities fairly. Likewise, having the right support system at home presents women with opportunities they would otherwise pass.

Driving innovation

Despite these obstacles, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of women in tech. First and foremost, there is a growing recognition of the importance of inclusivity in the workplace. Companies are starting to understand that diverse teams are more innovative and effective, and are actively working to increase representation within their operations. For example, at Uber, women have been critical in driving forward tech innovation that addresses challenges unique to women in varied cultural contexts. A great example is the ‘Women Preferred View’ that was launched as a global-first in Saudi Arabia – and has now expanded to several other markets. We need to close the gap between women in junior roles and women in leadership roles, as well as ensure a balance of women in all geographies, to ensure systemic and significant change.

To unlock the full potential of women in tech, there are several key strategies that companies can adopt.

Firstly, it is essential to foster a culture of inclusion from the start, to address stereotypes and biases.This is done through Employee Resource Groups, training, and mentoring programs among other things.

Secondly, companies can put in place policies for gender equality. This includes policies related to recruiting and promotion, pay, and diversity. For example, if men have access to better paternity packages, they are able to bond with their growing family and, in turn, responsibility is more fairly balanced from the offset, ultimately setting women up to return to the workforce more seamlessly.

My advice to women in tech is to take responsibility for their professional development. Set ambitious goals, work hard, ask for feedback, and promote yourself. Self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to many women, so practice this skill by promoting others. This will allow you to build the confidence you need to unlock your potential.

While my advice is to be proactive, the onus does not fall exclusively on women in tech. Unlocking the full potential requires a sustained and collaborative effort from all stakeholders, including companies, industry organizations, government, and individuals at all levels of the industry.

Pia El Hachem is the GM – UAE and Levant at Uber

Also read: LG opens business innovation centre in Dubai

Also read: Top 6 innovations disrupting the region’s healthcare space

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