Having worked in the UK Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) industry at Accenture for 16 years, I have always been aware of the gender imbalance in Accenture and at our clients, and particularly in senior management and leadership roles. However, in recent years there has been a swell of positive steps taken to start to readdress this, with organisations implementing very tailored and specific interventions to try and get to the core of these issues.
For the report, we interviewed senior executive leaders at the BBC, BT, News UK, Openreach, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and the Royal Television Society. Across the board, every C-Suite leader we spoke to was passionately engaged in the subject, receptive to new ideas on how to address it, and astonishingly well-briefed. I came away from these interviews with the impression that the gender equality issue is now right at the top of TMT boardroom agendas.
In fact, once the research study was fully underway, it became clear to me that the debate around workplace gender balance has progressed in several ways over the past few years. Here are my three-key take-aways:
A few years back, debates raged around whether businesses should introduce quotas to ensure their workforces are representative of the UK’s overall population. For some, this approach was seen to restrict the ability of employers to recruit the best people to each position every time.
This question now seems to have been settled in favour of quotas and targets. In fact, we found that public announcements of diversity quotas or targets are now viewed as important signals within the industry, helping woman rise to the top, while also freeing men to spend more time at home.
Every company we spoke to had put in place a target of some description, and most mandate a 50/50 gender split on shortlists for open roles.
Another sense I got from our research was that senior executives are looking to create a balanced workforce in the widest sense of the word. Everyone we spoke to talked at length about diversity, and the role gender diversity plays in building an organisation with the broadest set of skills, opinions and talents.
The reason that C-suite execs in the TMT industry are so passionate about promoting this diversity is because it makes good business sense. The people we spoke to agreed that diversity of thought can lead to better business outcomes; from more effective teamwork and more collaborative working environments to more innovative solutions to customer challenges.
More so than ever, women are at the heart of deciding which services and entertainment programmes are allowed into the home. In Accenture’s 2017 Global Consumer Pulse survey, for instance, we found that women more likely to be worried about privacy concerns when it comes to purchasing connected devices and services in the home. This means that businesses can no longer ignore their preferences when it comes to product and service development.
So, a TMT business might well be able to claim that it has, for example, a 40% female workforce, but if none of these roles are in product development it can’t be considered a balanced workforce. This is what our research has made so clear: the gender issue is no longer simply about numbers. TMT businesses need to carefully consider where female workers are placed so that their services, packages, bundles and content truly resonate with all customers.
Solving the gender inequality in the workplace continues to be difficult and slow-moving. However, our report shows that real progress is being made in the TMT industry. This is great news in and of itself, but let’s not forget that it also makes businesses more diverse, better reflective of their customers and, ultimately, more competitive.
Please download the full report, Growth Through Balance, to find out more.