Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, apologized for the remark he made at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event, but Microsoft’s diversity and pay figures say it all. Women at Microsoft are paid less than their male counterparts doing the same work. Microsoft’s management and technology positions are dominated by men, although Microsoft does have more than one female executive and a few women on its Board. And Microsoft is actually better than most companies in technology, and other industries, about having women in leadership positions. It is representative of tech companies, generally, with respect to overall diversity figures however- which fall short of being closely representative of the pool of qualified employees. And when it comes to overall diversity, tech companies tend to be more racially diverse than most non-tech companies. All that said, corporations are not diversity-friendly, especially regarding gender diversity.
Women simply are at a disadvantage in the corporate arena. Male founded and managed companies may want to change this, but they are not equipped to do it. Men cannot, by themselves, know how to address the barriers women face- they do not even understand what the barriers are and why certain conditions are barriers for women (but not men). Nadella’s remarks, which are similar to those of other male CEO’s, are glaring proof of this. Additionally, often times the rare women in leadership positions, today, also inadvertently create barriers for other women. Society, as well as the men and few women in executive management, cannot fairly expect companies to solve these problems without external input. As a woman who did manage to climb to the top in a male dominated industry, I can attest to the challenges and why they are barriers for most women.
Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple and other large and small technology companies have published their diversity figures. This is good- companies in other industries should do the same. The fact that technology companies are not unique in this regard, needs to be in the public limelight. Corporations, as an influential segment of our economy and society, should all be addressing this issue of diversity. It is not only for the benefit of society and individual people that the workforce be more diverse and representative of qualified candidates, it is financially, operationally and strategically advantageous for corporations. Studies show that investors and consumers are increasingly concerned about diversity and other social impact concerns. CEO’s, executive management and Boards should be asking themselves, how do we get ahead of this issue?