How Women Can Turn Challenges into a Movement and Create the Company of the Future

Last month at the Women in Technology Conference in Amsterdam, talented women from across various disciplines in technology — scientists, politicians, engineers, founders — came together for an inspiring event.

The ecosystem of women in tech has grown significantly over the last decade. Although there is still work to be done to reach an equal presence in the tech world, the push for diversity in organizations has never been greater.

During the conference, attendees talked about diversity, inclusion, how to create impact, and companies of the future.

Equality in the Workplace

The tech world is still male-dominated. Although great examples of pioneering women who made significant contributions to the tech world in computer science were female. Top Secret Rosie’s were the world’s first computer programmers and Grace Hopper wrote the first compiler.

Regarding diversity and inclusion, many organizations look to these topics to meet a quota, where a certain percentage of women are in management or leadership positions. Some Nordic countries made regulations to reach acceptable levels of diversity.

This is how diversity results are presented during International Women’s Day on March 8. But the real question is: Is diversity just a matter of quotas in management or board positions? What about diversity and inclusion in processes or a product build or decision making?

Meeting quotas is certainly the first step in having representation at each level of an organization but does not necessarily drive sustainable change or results. Diversity in the tech world will come about when companies are successfully able to alter the employment cycle in which men hire men who are like themselves. Diversity in the workplace will improve when women are equally represented in leadership positions. Thus, all opinions could be heard and make businesses more innovative. Promoted should be based on potential and not solely on past accomplishments.

Diversity in Leadership

Women also have important roles to play in promotions by being ambitious in every pursuit and eliminating self-doubt. This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name: “the imposture syndrome.” Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. Ask a woman the same question and she will often attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she worked really hard, got lucky, or had help from others.

Women often believe that good job performance will naturally lead to rewards. The founders of Negotiating Women, Inc., describe this as the “tiara syndrome,” where women think if they keep doing well someone will notice their efforts and put tiaras on their heads. Hard work should be recognized by others, but if it is not, self-advocating becomes necessary. Women should not wait for power to be offered to them. Instead, they should take risks, choose growth, challenge themselves, and ask for promotions.

Women should push to advance transformation at their organizations — by being first on the scene to lead the way. Women must also be among the first to transform intent into action.

An equal world would be one where women and men share responsibilities in the workplace and at home. SAP recently announced Jennifer Morgan as co-CEO of SAP. So what does a company of the future look like?

Innovation and the Bionic Company

McKinsey & Company presented the rise of the bionic company, which will harness the power of technology and humans together. The company will operate with purpose, focusing on what matters and shifting from “knowing all” to “learning-all.” Leadership will have a shared purpose and objectives. The bionic company will be organized to take and implement decisions quickly enough to outperform the competition. Tesla was cited as a great example because it has been able to define a new commercial policy, design, and test while updating its software and rolling it out globally – all in six days!

Unsurprisingly, the companies that will still exist in the next decade will succeed in their sustainability transformations. Sustainability is key to organizational and technological innovation that yields both bottom-line and top-line returns.

The strongest place for innovation is within social entrepreneurship, where companies will team up with the ecosystem, champion a more human-centric design, and elevate empathy as the cornerstone of any decision. Future talent will be widespread – they will be where leaders go and talk to them. A great story from the event was about education for youth, taking iPads to seven-year-old girls in Uganda. This an area around which future business will be constructed over the next several years.

Warren Buffet has stated that one of the reasons for his success was that he was mostly competing with half of the population. Let’s drive the change we want to see – where diversity is a sustainable reality that will give everyone the chance to compete.