Women in tech: it’s not a media story, it’s good business.
I have grown tired listening to the excuses offered by the technology industry when addressing the ongoing gender gap in Silicon Valley. The simple answer to why there aren’t more women working in tech? It hasn’t been a priority for most tech companies to hire women.
In the two years since we founded Collective Health, we have prioritized creating a gender-balanced workplace and I’m proud to report among our many results in growing our business: a 1:1 female-to-male ratio. After seeing the talent that has come through our doors, I can say that hiring exceptional women is no more difficult than hiring the best engineers or trying to recruit top university graduates. It just comes down to whether or not you make it a priority.
Some context as to why this issue is so important to me: Growing up, I learned about and later observed some of the extraordinary, gender-related challenges that my mother had to overcome — both in her country of origin, Syria, and in her newfound home here in the United States — to become a surgeon. While we’ve made great strides in gender equality since my mother’s struggles, sadly, many of the challenges that I watched my mother overcome are still far too prevalent in today’s workplace. To me, that is just unacceptable, and something that as a CEO, I won’t be complicit in perpetuating.
I have carried that determination throughout my professional career, where I have had the privilege of both recruiting and working alongside strong, intelligent women to build powerhouse teams that were the envy of everyone in large part due to their diversity. And through those experiences, I have come to believe that having a balanced ratio of women and men on your team isn’t just good media fodder, but one of the smartest business decisions you can make.
Among the many benefits that having more women on your team brings, here are a few that should be of particular interest to those of us working in tech:
Hiring women limits group-think. One of the most important responsibilities I have as a CEO is facilitating intelligent and productive debate around the leadership team table. At Collective Health, just like our 1:1 to female-to-male employee ratio, our leadership team also represents an even ratio of men and women. The women on our team often have the strongest voices, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve learned that having female leaders on our leadership team fosters and advances discussions in ways that were missing at some of my prior companies. It’s not just what women say, but how they say things that often fosters great discussion.
Hiring women enables you to better understand your market. So many mistakes, from startling gaffes to simple missed opportunities, are made every day by start-ups and industry giants alike. I’ve learned that much of both can be avoided by building a team that accurately reflects the market you serve. And to state the obvious, women are a meaningful part of every market. It’s fascinating to me that unbalanced teams don’t realize that their lack of internal diversity is a blind spot for their business and address it with haste.
Hiring women gives you an edge in recruiting. It’s shocking to me to hear anyone associate hiring women with lowering your hiring standards. From first-hand experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve learned that hiring women is one of the most effective ways to keep an edge in a fiercely competitive talent market. This is a sad, unspoken reflection of today’s reality, but I’ve seen it time and time again: highly qualified female candidates simply do not get a fair shake at many roles in the Valley, especially at the leadership level. The truth is, it may be even easier for you to get a more talented woman to accept a key position on your team than a man, if you just looked.
I have made it a deliberate focus to create a company and a culture that reflects the best, and avoids the worst, of what I’ve encountered in my 18+ year career. Key to this focus is having a gender-balanced workplace. At Collective Health, we’ll continue to focus on not just embracing the trend of balancing the ratio of women in the workforce, but accelerating it. And it’s about time everyone else did the same.