International Women’s Day: The Importance of Allyship in Gender Diversity
Today is International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness against bias and for championing action to drive meaningful change to create a fairer, more equal world.
While there has been much progress in some respects, women are still vastly underrepresented in the technology industry, particularly among senior leadership teams. Women still only make up less than a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce.
Research also shows that women are still promoted at a far lower rate than their male counterparts; this may be why women are not attracted to the industry in the first place. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. This could account for the lack of women in leadership roles.
So, where are organisations going wrong in addressing gender diversity? Well first, it’s important to not think of gender equality as a female issue, it’s a social, moral and economic issue. It’s also a major problem for an industry that is facing an ongoing digital skills crisis, which is making it increasingly difficult for employers to fill roles. In turn, this is leading to the overburdening of already strained teams. One study puts the global cybersecurity talent shortage at more than 4 million people.
A McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion (11%) could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. In a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion (26%), could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.
Moreover, research shows that diverse teams perform better and are more innovative. Leaders across all industries recognise that a diverse workforce is good for business.
In short, there is an urgency to attract more women to the profession and, more importantly, an imperative to retain them. Women are unlikely to join or stay in a career that chronically undervalues them, or where they feel there are too few gender equality allies.
To do this will require a shift in how business leaders, organisation influencers, and we all think about the issue – it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ or a topic siloed off to HR.
Encourage Allyship through company culture
Although there are no quick fixes to these challenges of gender equality, there are steps companies can and should take.
Changing company culture is a good first step. Work culture deeply influences organisational leadership style, how people interact with their colleagues, how people feel overall in their role and their sentiment towards the company.
Women’s day-to-day experiences are heavily influenced by their interactions with managers and co-workers.
Crafting a company culture that fully leverages and promotes the benefits of diversity will go a long way to addressing the issue. Women, and all employees, should feel comfortable bringing their ideas, perspective, and experiences to the table.
If both men and women have workplace psychological safety, they will be more likely to call out unfair practices, behaviour that diminishes women and be more supportive of their co-workers. This will benefit DEI and positively influence the experiences of women in the workplace.
If an employer can achieve this type of work environment, everyone will feel happier in their jobs and more connected to their co-workers and more likely to be a gender ally.
Allyship from more senior colleagues, both male and female, can make an enormous difference. Senior leaders within the business need to fully and publicly support gender equality and actively participate in training and events related to DEI. This will strongly signal the organisation’s commitment to doing more to boost DEI.
Doing this will help infuse this type of culture into the organisation much more quickly and encourage strong buy-in from employees who will see the benefits in modelling this behaviour.
Engage men in the gender inclusion programmes
Gender equality must be everyone’s responsibility. It cannot be driven by women alone. Men must be included and engaged in the dialogue so that they can play their role in the solution. Everyone needs to be empowered to be a gender diversity supporter.
Evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programmes, 96% of organisations see progress. This is compared to only 30% of organisations where men are not engaged.iii6
According to McKinsey & LeanIn’s latest Women in the Workplace Report, men account for 79% of the C-suite and 93% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. With such influence in senior roles, men are well positioned to become powerful gender allies, which would help speed up progress and make changes more sustainable.
Aside from making the workplace a fairer and positive environment, men also benefit when they champion gender equality on a personal level. One study found that men who were more likely to act as allies to women reported proportionately higher levels of personal growth and were more likely to say they acquired skills that made them better husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.
At Adarma we are proactively working to build this type of inclusive culture where everyone feels empowered to speak-up, share their ideas, recognised for their work, and valued as an individual.
Although we have more work to do in terms of gender diversity, we are supporting and sponsoring initiatives, such as the ‘Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security’ programme, to provide training to women wishing to progress in their career into senior leadership roles.
We have also reviewed our hiring language to ensure we are making careers into cybersecurity more accessible for everyone.
Our flexible working policy ensures that our people are empowered to manage their work life balance and are not excluded from being part of our team.
“Inclusion without diversity cannot exist. The balance of women in cybersecurity, especially in leadership positions, needs to change. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen first-hand that the best ideas and solutions come from more diverse teams; whether that’s in the boardroom or in day-to-day interactions with customers, partners and communities.
“It’s vital that we attract and retain more women into the cybersecurity industry, and, more importantly, we develop those that are already here. It’s critical that businesses sponsor initiatives that support women at work and provide training, but also take proactive steps to drive a company culture that removes bias and improves everyone’s daily work experiences.” – John Maynard, CEO at Adarma.
Learn more about what we are doing to build a more balanced and representative workplace.