Why It is Vital to Have Women in Your Startup's Leadership Team Diversifying your management team is a clear step towards progress and success

By Pooja Singh

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We have closed 68 per cent of the gender gap worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2019. It will, however, take 108 years to achieve overall gender parity and 202 years to achieve full equality in the workplace.

When it comes to political and economic leadership, the world still has a long way to go, the report says. Across the 149 countries assessed, there are just 17 that currently have women as heads of state, while, on average, just 18 per cent of ministers and 24 per cent of parliamentarians globally are women. Similarly, women hold just 34 per cent of managerial positions across the countries where data is available, and less than seven per cent in the four worst-performing countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan). Also, among the 29 countries for which data are available, women spend, on average, twice as much time on housework and other unpaid activities than men.

Technology gap

Based on collaboration with LinkedIn, the report found that only 22 per cent of artificial intelligence (AI) professionals globally are female, compared to 78 per cent who are male. This accounts for a gender gap of 72 per cent, which has remained constant over the last years and does not at present indicate a positive future trend. The implications of this finding are wide-ranging.

"First, AI skills gender gaps may exacerbate gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity in the future as AI encompasses an increasingly in-demand skillset," says the report. Second, the AI skills gender gap implies that the use of this general-purpose technology across many fields is being developed without diverse talent, limiting its innovative and inclusive capacity. Third, low integration of women into AI talent pools—even in industries and geographies where the base of IT talent has a relatively high composition of women—indicates a significant missed opportunity in a professional domain where there is already insufficient supply of adequately qualified labour, it adds.

Whether AI, fintech, e-commerce or HR, having a diversified team, no matter the sector, is a step towards progress, gender equality and success. Plus, several studies have shown that having women on the executive team is key to an organization's success.

Diversity matters

Scientific research across the world shows that being around people who are different makes us more creative, more diligent and hard working. In 2012, for instance, researchers at the Credit Suisse Research Institute analysed the performance of close to 2,400 companies with and without women board members from 2005 to 2011. They found that firms with at least one woman on the board outperformed their peer group with no women on the board by 26 per cent over the six-year period.

More talent

If you have more women in leadership positions, it will set the trend for more diverse hires. More women would be interested in taking up jobs and have women as mentors.

Female talent remains one of the most under-utilized business resources, either squandered through lack of progression or untapped from the onset, says the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2017.

Increased profits

A 2016 global survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries, which revealed the relative dearth of women in high leadership positions, said that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions can improve firm performance when it comes to profit.

Although the study by the US-based Peterson Institute for International Economics didn't pinpoint any particular reason for the correlation, it did suggest that the higher profits could be owing to increased creativity, skill diversity and improved decision making.

Wavy Line
Pooja Singh

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific


A stickler for details, Pooja Singh likes telling people stories. She has previously worked with Mint-Hindustan Times, Down To Earth and Asian News International-Reuters. 

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