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The Benefits of Female Leadership in Tech By Lisa Hammond, Awin Group Marketing Director

Courtesy of Awin

Following a phenomenal year of growth in the US, global affiliate marketing firm Awin announced Awin US and ShareASale will unify leadership and operations in 2019 to expand upon the strategic solutions offered to clients across both platforms in North America, as well as those wishing to broaden their reach internationally.

Overseeing all of Awin's North American footprint is Alexandra Forsch, president of Awin US, and Sarah Beeskow Blay, vice president of ShareASale - who have been collaborating on streamlining operations since 2017.

In the Silicon Valley, women hold only 11 percent of executive positions, and own only 5 percent of tech startups. However, research shows that companies who discount women from leadership positions are at a competitive disadvantage. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg points out, "Endless data shows that diverse teams make better decisions."

What do tech firms stand to gain by taking Sandberg's advice and following Awin's lead?

"Research indicates companies who diversify management teams foster a culture of growth and collaboration, innovate more, produce better products, and ultimately, improve their bottom line," states Beeskow Blay. "Ultimately though, employees benefit from strong and supportive leadership regardless of gender."

Employees are more incentivized to advance their careers.

It is interesting to review the 2015 Gallup study that revealed higher engagement among female bosses with their employees. They were reported more likely to talk with employees about their progress, and more likely to encourage professional growth than men in the same management positions.

Companies with female leadership tend to have more job development opportunities and in-house promotions. Pew Research suggests people are five times more likely to perceive women as better mentors than men, while the Academy of Management reports women-run companies have higher rates of mentorship.

Women in leadership encourage greater collaboration.

Today's global market is increasingly collaborative, and plays to women's natural strengths. A 2016 CNN report suggests female leaders display more open and inclusive behaviors, including their approach to negotiation, in comparison to their male counterparts. Because women are more likely to listen to dissenting opinions, they are better able to incorporate fractured views into cohesive solutions. Women are also less likely to perceive help as threatening, and accept support and advice more readily than men in similar positions. Other studies show that cooperative activities are more attractive to women than to men, which favorably changes workplace dynamics and team approaches to problem solving.

Leadership diversity improves innovation and critical thinking.

Diversity facilitates open discussions of more unique perspectives and information, leading to a fuller perspective on the market and product design. "We are building products that people with very diverse backgrounds use," Sandberg explains, "and I think we all want our company makeup to reflect the makeup of the people who use our products."

According to Scientific American, diversity at the top leads to more innovative problem-solving solutions by prompting employees to expect differences in approach and opinion, which prepares their mindset for more critical thinking. A recent study by BCG also found companies with above-average diversity scores experienced much higher innovation revenue than companies with below-average scores.

Companies with strong female leadership outperform their competitors.

The money doesn't lie. Companies who hire and promote women to leadership positions improve their bottom line. MSCI reports organizations with more women on their boards experience higher rates of return on equity, sales, and invested capital, while women-operated, venture-backed companies achieve 12 percent higher revenue than those operated by men.

BCG's survey of more than 1,700 companies in the Americas, Europe, and Asia revealed this trend is global; organizations with more diverse leadership teams reported EBIT margins nine points higher than those with low scores. The benefits of electing females into leadership positions have long been recognized and honored on a global level at Awin. Across 15 offices worldwide, and among over 1,000 employees, 48 percent of senior level roles are occupied by women at Awin, which is an increase from an industry average that hovers well under 20 percent for senior and executive-level positions.

"At Awin, we recognize that a mix of different views, skills and experiences is what makes us so successful," Forsch adds. "This is determined by many aspects, irrespective of gender."

As companies continue to promote women to senior management roles, there are other benefits to consider. A 2013 article produced by the Institute for Gender Research suggests increasing women's retention rates—a problem that, historically, has been linked to raising families—is forcing companies to reconsider their family leave policies and improve work-life balance. That's good news for men and women alike.

For tech companies looking to grow and innovate in the fiscal new year, one strategy seems clear: women can help you get there.