As an executive and CFO of a public tech company, I sometimes attend investor conferences where I will have many meetings in a day.
People across the table are typically analysts and portfolio managers representing financial institutions. I recently attended such a conference in Europe. The meetings were varied, we discussed our industry and my company's strategy, results, and investment thesis.
When I reflected on the day's insights and discussions, something bothered me which had nothing to do with Amdocs: I was the only woman at the table in every meeting.
My daughter will probably join the workforce in a few years. It is tempting to believe we are well on the way to winning the battle for gender equality and that she will face a different situation than I did. But the statistics are sobering: In the a S&P 500, 44.7% of employees are women but only 26.5% are senior managers and just 5.8% are CEOs. I believe it's the responsibility of my generation to do everything we can to fix this.
Account for generational differences
As tech companies focus on hiring more women, many of them will be millennials and Gen Z: in 2020, millennials will make up 50% of the American workforce and 75% of the global workforce. We need to make our companies more attractive to these women whose life cycle has changed over the years, who have new family models.
We need to evolve — flexible working and accommodating career breaks are a must. Our research also shows that both millennials and Gen Z want to know how their work makes a difference and has an impact; that their companies have a defined purpose, communicated clearly and authentically. They want to work in a supportive atmosphere with amazing people. This is good news — they may blaze the trail, but we will all benefit.
Develop women leaders within your organization
As tech companies struggle with attracting, retaining, and progressing women, we must provide a culture of inclusion and innovation. We need to continually look for opportunities to develop and reinvent female talent; provide training in new technologies, methods of work, and leadership competencies; and eliminate all forms of unconscious bias.
If we can attract the right talent, they will expect to take responsibility for their own development: just 1 in 10 baby boomers feel they are personally responsible for reskilling as technology threatens the stability of many traditional careers. Conversely, three times as many millennials and members of Gen Z believe the onus is on them, rather than their employer, to develop new skills.
Create the right ecosystem and foster empowerment
We also need to implement the programs and mindset that encourage women to put themselves out there and position themselves for key roles in our industry. In my own company, the Amdocs INSPIRE program is a long-term innovative organizational framework for closing the gender gap.
Inspired by the UN's "HeForShe" movement, this program helps all existing leaders become agents of gender diversity change. Finally, women have to believe they can reach the top in a company; senior women role models are critical. In our company, roughly 25% of our executive leadership is women — this is not enough. But we do manage 43% of the company's employees, so like many women, we are punching above our weight. The good news is that as a company we are moving in the right direction, driven by senior management committed to change and our employees and future talent who want results.
This is great, and it gives me hope — hope that as other companies do the same, my daughter will never be the only woman at the table.