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How Organizations can Promote Gender Diversity in Tech Companies are not applying a gender lens to their corporate social responsibility and philanthropy efforts, research shows

By Pooja Singh

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Diversity is essential, especially in the workplace. When people of different genders, backgrounds and experiences come together as a team, they develop innovative ideas and, in general, perform better across functions in an organization. Companies across the world understand this, yet not many work rigorously to close the gap.

The tech industry, for instance, is filled with men. Only 11 per cent of senior tech leaders are women. What's worse, companies like Google, eBay and Salesforce spend as little as five per cent of their philanthropic dollars to close the gender as well as race gap.

The Tally

A recent study, conducted by Melinda Gates' investment and incubation company Pivotal Ventures in partnership with McKinsey & Company, says last year 32 large tech companies raked in $500 billion in sales, of which more than $500 million was used for philanthropy. But of that, only $24 million was spent to support programming for women and girls, while a paltry $335,000 was used for programmes dedicated to women of colour, says the study "Reboot Representation: Using CSR and Philanthropy to Close the Gender Gap in Tech".

Where the Problem Lies

To offer insights into why the companies' efforts are falling short, the researchers interviewed more than 100 leaders in the tech field. They found that companies are not applying a gender lens to their corporate social responsibility and philanthropy efforts. "Without deliberately focusing on women's representation in programs that prepare people for careers in tech, companies risk replicating the same gender ratios we see in the sector today," the report says.

Another reason for the lack of funding: "Many companies sponsor programs to reach underrepresented minority communities generally rather than doubling down on removing barriers for women of colour in particular. This current gender-neutral approach is unlikely to change the persistently low number of underrepresented women of colour in tech," it says.

Get, Set, Go

Limited evidence of what works and the fragmentation of decision making and ownership regarding gender-diversity initiatives are the other two reasons.

"Companies that successfully link their philanthropy and CSR efforts with their D&I initiatives under a unified strategy are more likely to see success on both fronts," says the report, adding: "Sixty-one percent of companies reported that it is difficult to know which programs have the most impact today, and 42 percent resort to self-guided online research to drive their giving strategy. The need for more research, as well as the synthesis and dissemination of findings, is clear."

Make Things Right

The report has identified ways to increase the number of women studying computing and entering tech, which companies could embrace and close the diversity gap. The first one is to focus on women and girls.

"It is important for companies to support either girls-only programs or coeducational programs that focus on achieving at least 40 percent representation of girls through proactive recruitment and retention steps. Maintaining a focus on women's equal representation, with stated goals at the program level, is the only way to avoid replicating the same gender ratios we see in tech today," the report says.

Focus is the Word

The efforts, the report says, should focus on those facing the most barriers, underrepresented women and girls of colour. "Women experience different types of roadblocks and biases when studying computing and pursuing a career in tech due to their race or ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexuality, and other elements of their identities and backgrounds. Companies can support strategies and programs that attend to the specific challenges faced by the sub-segments of women who are facing multiple forms of marginalization," it says.

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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