In the last month, Forbes released its list of the 100 most innovative leaders in America, based on four core leadership characteristics:-perception in media for innovation, social connections, value creation, and investor expectations. The results clearly showed one significant challenge: Out of the list of 100 leaders was only one woman. Barbara Rentler, CEO of retail business Ross Stories was ranked number 75 with the added exclusion, unlike the others, of no apparent headshot.
Randall Lane, the editor at Forbes explained that the data-focused study influencing the ranking scale was potentially flawed, yet another recent study Forbes Cloud 100 published in September only included 3 companies with female chief executives.
There is clearly a continued challenge with female representation across certain industries, particularly within cloud, data, and STEM. Building female representation in STEM has been an industry goal for many years.
The UK based Women in Data started in 2014 as a short fairly informal gathering, but today has evolved into a collection of events, with its main attraction expected to attract over 1,500 attendees later this year. Technical recruiter Rachel Keane developed the event with co-founding Roisin McCarthy after seeing that the company had placed fewer women in 2014 for data and analytics as done in 2000. Kean believes this was a strange figure, as the business was more profitable, the client base had increased and they had been securing the best talent for each job.
Keane, McCarthy and other industry members highlight the challenges facing women in terms of climbing the career ladder in STEM. Other issues that affect women due to certain changes. Returning from maternity leave into some technology disciplines can mean some return significantly out of the loop by no actual fault of their own. Kean emphasises that technology is evolving rapidly, with some products in use one minute, then replaced the other. There ultimately needs to be a place for all women and as data becomes more pivotal across each industry, this could provide further opportunities. Keane explains that many upcoming school leavers believe that to work in finance they should focus on maths qualifications. Women in Data is currently developing a short film, alongside a number of leading companies to inform young women on the multiple options which they could follow with their chosen degree.
Keane explains that many young women are simply not aware that they can have a job in retail or technology or other industry, yet still, be connected to finance.
Keane highlights that more recently businesses are looking for more than just number-crunching. Companies want people that are capable of telling a story, listening and creating insights that impact business performance, skills that well adept for many women. Female industry leaders have emphasised that women need to have more confidence and understand that careers can progress and regress and that it is okay to take two steps back to then take one step forward.
Keane believes that women need to have more self-confidence in their skills and ability. Keane refers to how men and women look at a job spec, suggesting that men are traditionally more confident that they can meet the criteria, whilst women may be a little hesitant to apply for the role. Keane states that in her 11 years of recruitment, she hasn’t placed one person in a role that matches the job specification completely. Instead, Keane explains that she places people on a combination of their technical ability, their unique skills and how the company will benefit by having this person in their team.