Sue-Ellen Wright, Managing Director of Sopra Steria’s Aerospace Defence and Security Business, discusses the future of women in digital transformation
Across all industries, especially the public sector, digital transformation is vital to providing opportunities for businesses to improve how they operate and adapt to changing customer expectations.
Unsurprisingly the pandemic has been a catalyst for digitalisation, with an IDC report predicting direct digital transformation investment will total over $6.8 trillion between 2020 and 2023 – a compound annual growth rate of 15.5%. Yet, while the opportunities in digital transformation are apparent, the number of women involved in leading transformation projects is low.
The global gender gap in various industries, technology included, is not expected to close until 2120, proving there needs to be a greater effort to encourage women to enter both digital and leadership positions. Doing so will strengthen business transformation, allowing organisations to benefit from different perspectives and skills.
The role of diversity in transformation
The need for digital transformation is set to continue as businesses pick up the pace in the new world of work – it’s no longer just a ‘nice-to-have’, but a critical pillar to create social and economic progress. To succeed though, organisations must deliver transformation initiatives ethically.
This includes being considerate of a diverse team, made up of people from different backgrounds, lifestyles and capabilities, and taking into account gender diversity, alongside other identity markers. Implementing these ideals increase creativity, bring different perspectives, and allow for better, more nuanced ideas as part of transformation projects, which are more likely to be successful.
Encouraging women to lead in transformation
This diverse workforce is especially important within the public sector, which deals with stakeholders from all walks of life. Yet, in order to create a diverse taskforce, businesses firstly need to address the significant gender gap, especially at senior leadership level. Research from Cranfield University has shown that, in the FTSE 100, there are not enough female chairs, chief executives, and chief financial officers.
Generally, gender diversity needs to be top of mind. For business transformation projects in particular, leadership roles need to be fostered for women, whether that’s creating more roles, or providing dedicated support groups and opportunities for women throughout their careers.
There are numerous, deep rooted barriers, however that need to be overcome in the quest for public sector gender diversity. Firstly, it’s frequently difficult for women to professionally progress given they are often bypassed for promotions and new roles due to misconceptions they’re too busy with the duties of caring for children and attending to domestic tasks.
Couple this with a report by LinkedIn which found that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men, and recruiters are 13% less likely to click on a woman’s profile when she shows up in search.
Statistics like these show that the recruitment process must also be reviewed if we are to find, attract, and retain more women. Job adverts must also be made inclusive to attract more female applicants, and recruiters must become better at removing their biases (both conscious and unconscious) when judging applications. If positive steps are taken to attract more female candidates, the gender balance in recruitment pipelines will improve and we will see the number of women naturally increase.
Championing diversity and showcasing role models
One important step the public sector needs to make to encourage greater diversity in their workforce is to publicly commit to championing women. This is a great way to ensure they stay accountable to their goals and signals to female employees they will be valued and respected. Initiative’s like the UN Women’s Charter offer a great opportunity to embrace and champion our female employees.
Furthermore, championing women already in leadership provides others with much needed role models. This can demystify senior positions, make female leaders more accessible and visible, and inspire both current and future generations. Knowing and celebrating a diverse range of women in business transformation can also help to tackle imposter syndrome while facilitating a fair and egalitarian work culture.
Final thoughts on digital transformation
Even though these aforementioned challenges will take time to rectify, public sector organisations can – and must – act now. By supporting women in their work and attracting diverse talent at various levels, businesses can not only mitigate against the gender gap growing, but benefit from a workforce and transformation projects which more accurately depict the real world’s gender balance.