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Re-thinking Diversity

By Robin Selden, Chief Marketing Officer, Avast

Re-thinking Diversity

I have spent much of my career in boardrooms and meetings where women were the minority or where I was the only woman in the room. Yet most of the companies I have been a part of recognised the need to change this imbalance. This brings up a question of 21st century business: why has it been so difficult to diversify leadership?

We have made it obligatory – arduous, even; a process filled with “shoulds”, with no end in sight, and depressing statistics reminding us of how far we still have to go.

We can flip the script. Although there are many challenges, diversity can be profitable, rewarding, and even celebratory. We can do this if we re-think our approach.

Diversity is a business opportunity

The reason to promote diversity in an organisation is not only because it is the right thing to do; but more importantly, because it helps a company win. Diverse organisations perform better. Companies that reported above-average diversity on their management teams also reported innovation revenue that was 19 percentage points higher than that of companies with below-average leadership diversity. A variety of gender, age, skill and nationality are all crucial to a successful team.

Think about it this way: electric cars were an important idea for a long time. Then the Toyota Prius allowed owners to save money and help the environment. According to the Economist, that was the tipping point. We are at that same point with diversity of leadership. It’s no longer a tough sell based on doing the right thing. It’s the right thing to do and a business slam-dunk.

Diversity improves organisations

Let’s look at just one aspect of business: your customers. Diversity is crucial for designing a good customer experience, and more than half of consumers are women. How can you expect to develop a successful product, service or solution until you have a first-hand perspective of the people you’re developing it for? Women are needed to develop great products that other women can appreciate. The Silicon Valley design firm IDEO, which introduced empathy as an approach to user experience, advocates “inclusive championship” as a scalable, sustainable investment in understanding customers.

That same approach can be extended to human resources to diversify hiring, to marketing to diversity communications, to research and development to diversify product offerings. Diversity isn’t just profitable now; it’s an investment in your company long term.

Diversity can be innovative – especially in tech

Tech has struggled with diversity – and our industry is where an enormous number of today’s career growth opportunities unfold. Women should not be excluded from those opportunities, but they often are.

Tech innovates and grows through breakthroughs that drive company growth. As an industry, we run on inspiration. It’s impossible to create innovative products, solve new problems and create new things with a team of homogenous mind-sets and life experiences. This reduces your chance of success and severely limits your ability to create the next big thing.

This is why Avast is involved with programmes like Cyber Pathways, an extracurricular workshop that give female high school students exposure to cybersecurity, helps educate on tech subject selection at University and tech industry career opportunities, as well as giving them the chance to tackle a hands-on coding exercise.

At Avast, we are committed to providing hands on experience to a new generation of cybersecurity experts at events such as this. Many women attending these events tell us they hadn’t previously considered a career in technology, let alone cybersecurity. Once you talk about the opportunities available – in terms of roles, career progression and salaries – interest picks up! It is amazing what a little awareness can do.

Re-thinking opportunities

Diversity should not be drudgery. It should not be painstaking and slow. In fact, it should not be “a thing” at all. It can be profitable, rewarding, and innovative. We can do this by re-thinking our approach and starting younger so girls see the opportunity in front of them and take the path that will reward their potential.

We can address gender imbalance the way we address other problems in tech: with innovation, energy, and a healthy appetite for change.