This article was published on January 13, 2019

Why it’s a no-brainer to have women in your startup’s exec team

Why it’s a no-brainer to have women in your startup’s exec team
Michelle Lee
Story by

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is VP of Marketing at Cerego where she heads up the marketing strategy, product marketing, growth and digital marketing efforts Michelle Lee is VP of Marketing at Cerego where she heads up the marketing strategy, product marketing, growth and digital marketing efforts worldwide. Her 20 years of experience in tech includes leading strategy, branding, product, growth and revenues at B2B and B2C companies across SaaS, mobile, gaming and edtech, including working under Steve Jobs at Apple. In her spare time, she enjoys mentoring fellow women in tech in the Bay Area.

While women have made strides toward better representation in leadership roles over the last decade, the progress has been slow and labored. According to a recent Global Gender Gap Report via LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum, women continue to hold under half of the leadership positions across fields – in many industries, we make up less than 20 percent of upper management.

The problem is, closing the gender gap in leadership won’t happen overnight. The solution starts with hiring more women in positions at every level within your organization. Management teams should also seek ways to support female talent via progressive benefits and mentorship to retain women within their companies – and within their industries.

Tech giants and startups alike are finally realizing it’s time to make diversity a priority. Research shows that 41 percent of startups report having a program in place to raise the number of women in key leadership roles.

Diversifying your management team is the smart thing to do, a clear step towards progress and gender equality. Plus, data shows that having women on the executive team is directly related to a company’s success in key areas. Here are a few proven benefits of a gender-diverse leadership team.

Diversity supports better decision making

Exposure to coworkers that are different from you can inspire all kinds of advantages in areas like creativity, decision making, productivity, and innovation. Diversity in terms of gender along with race, ethnicity, age, experience, and other factors have been shown to help groups make better choices and solve problems more effectively.

Collaboration among a team with alternative viewpoints and unique insights helps your company tackle policies, issues, decisions, and projects with a more holistic, balanced, and creative approach.

More diversity in the talent pipeline

More women in leadership will translate to more diverse hires throughout your startup. Younger women are attracted to environments where they can identify mentors and witness successful female peers in management roles. Data suggests a diverse team can also reduce “imbalances, gender-biased hiring and workplace practices that lead to low rates of female applicants and high rates of exit” among female employees in tech.

Plus, women are pursuing college at significantly higher rates than men – flipping the statistics from decades past when the opposite was true. This means more qualified women in the talent pipeline and more females you’ll want – and need – on your team.

Your company’s profits will increase

Companies that embrace female executives earn higher profits, too. Surveys show that having women in the C-suite significantly increases net margins. Whether it’s due to the increased creativity and improved decision making that comes with a diverse team, a diverse reputation that attracts customers and partners ahead of competitors, or something else, it’s clear that adding women to your leadership team will have a positive effect on revenue.

In my experience, when women are involved at the highest level it creates a safe place for any woman (at any level within the company) to speak up and discuss challenges that every female in tech can relate to. It’s not always perfect because we each approach challenges with different expectations and personalities, but at least there’s a safe place to be heard.

This inevitably permeates throughout the company to men and women alike, as it should. We’re facing a turning point in tech – a time where we desperately need to implement change, listen to each other, and better support diverse hiring practices in the space.

As a Silicon Valley native, I’ve witnessed major progress and innovation over the years. This is why it’s hard to comprehend that in 2018, we still have companies without a single woman on their executive teams or boards. It’s a loss, of course, for the women who don’t have access to and opportunities for advancement, but it’s truly a more significant loss for the company.

Women bring unique perspectives that shape our approach to leadership and how we handle business challenges. Diversity in the C-suite contributes to a diverse set of beliefs within a company, resulting in inclusive decisions and outcomes. We live in a time in which such progress is vital to the success of a business, so why would any team deny themselves of those point of views?

What can you do to encourage more diversity in your C-suite? When hiring new candidates from outside your organization, make it a priority to improve the female to male ratio on your team. It’s also key to reach out and mentor women in existing entry and mid-level roles. Firms can also partner with schools and organizations that work to promote women in STEM careers to encourage more female hires starting from internships and the entry level.

Look into progressive benefits that may attract female hires, such as flexible hours and competitive parental leave. Most importantly, if you want to retain female talent, ensure you’re not building a “boys’ club” environment and, if you are, identify a strategy to break the cycle today.

What other ways have you found that women in leadership can propel an organization forward? How does your company make diversity a priority across the board?

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.

Also tagged with