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We need more women in tech design – and that is not because they will make it look better – no, women will make tech work better!
Design is not how something looks, but how something works. Unless representatives of half of the population of the world have a say in how tech products should work, how will tech do better?
Last year, I had written here an article based on my personal experience as a consumer in the internet economy. It evoked a phenomenal response from women readers saying they faced the same frustrations too. That left me wondering about these companies that were trying to lure us women customers – how many women decision makers do they have in their ranks? Are there enough women in tech design – whether it is developing their workflows, poring over their UI/UX, deciding on how the algorithms are getting built?
Look at the global tech giants – in 2015, following were the percentages of women in technical roles in these companies:
That opened up many eyes and over the next year, millions of dollars, effort and time were spent in improving hiring practices and retention strategies. In 2016, Google reported 19% and Facebook 17% women in their technical positions. Even more worryingly, the number of women taking up tech education at universities, taking up tech roles in companies and staying in tech careers is actually declining. What contributes to that is another debate, but what stands out is the need to have more women in tech.
That diversity brings out the best, is well known. Many organizations are consciously trying to improve gender diversity in their workforce. Let us pause for a minute and think about why it is needed. After all, companies have a business objective to achieve and should they care about who gets them to the goalpost – how many men and how many women? Of course, there is an angle of social responsibility and equality and all good words. But in my mind, there is a strong case of business logic that should be examined.
Larger numbers of women today are going to work outside homes, they are earning, they make spending decisions, they make business decisions at their workplaces. Technology is omnipresent today. Women are constantly interacting with technology. Unless a tech product appeals to them, they are not going to buy it. Billions are being invested in designing fashion e-commerce sites. Women are buyers. Companies better know what will make them buy! Consumer behavior drives the fortunes of companies. When an equal or large part of your revenue is supposed to come from women, should you not understand them well?
Do women read product reviews before buying? Do men? Do women click on Google ads more or FB ads? Are they more likely to go by Instagram or Pinterest images or do they look for videos? Do they prefer paying via e-wallets or credit cards? Do they like a highly technical User Manual or is a quick video what they prefer? Will they love virtual trial rooms or still stand in long queues to the fitting room in a store? Do women like SmartArt diagrams or do they tend to use more images off the web in their presentations? How many women entrepreneurs use G-suite, do they use QuickBooks or Tally, do they use Zoho? How does one know? Well, the same way one knows about men and the population is general – through surveys, observations, experiments and all of that. And yet, interpretation of data requires a nuanced understanding that sometimes comes from being in the same shoes.
More women making decisions will bring out more products friendlier to a larger population. More women deciding on communication design will lead to better and more realistic portrayal of women in advertising – hopefully. More women in tech design will inspire diversity and innovation in the way tech products work.
I see that diversity at my area of work every single day. As part of the team at startup incubator at IIMB, I interact with hundreds of techie entrepreneurs every month. The diversity of ideas that women come in with is awe-inspiring and every single day I am reminded of how women are top-notch caregivers. I have seen ideas on safer pregnancies, children’s safety, nutrition, elderly care, communication within extended Indian families, disabilities, learning issues, holistic well-being and more, coming in significantly larger numbers from women entrepreneurs as compared to men. And what’s fascinating is how they weave technology into their offering to make care better, scalable, and more efficient.
In our recently concluded Women Startup Programme, we saw an amazing array of ideas from women in tech – ideas that go beyond just tech wizardry and are truly putting tech to good use. More power to them and more power to women in tech design!
Top image via Pixabay
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Vrunda Bansode is a part of management team at NSRCEL - the Startup Hub at IIM
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