Nate Hurst, chief sustainability and social impact officer at HP, joins Michelle King, a leader in UN women’s gender innovation work, in a recent SHE Innovates podcast to discuss the key role women play in the workplace and ways business leaders can support women in technology and innovation.
Effects of diversity on innovation and performance
The 2018 McKinsey report Delivering through Diversity shows a positive correlation between diversity and financial performance: The highest-performing companies in profitability have more women on their executive teams. As Hurst says, “true innovation really comes from businesses with a diverse employee base.” Without diverse team members, companies can’t keep up with the external pressures of increasingly diverse customer bases. Customers, partners, and investors already demand gender equality advocacy from big multinational brands – this trend will only accelerate in the future.
According to the McKinsey article “How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth,” if women played the same role as men in the labor market, $28 trillion could be added to the global annual GDP by 2025. Without giving women the skills to succeed, the gender-based economic gap will continue to widen, and we’ll all be held back from our full potential.
Challenges to advancing gender equality
Hurst believes the main barrier to gender equality is lack of access to quality education. Many women and girls around the world don’t have resources for learning to read. Illiteracy leads to economic disadvantage, low self-esteem, low political participation, and even negative health outcomes. Hurst says all children have a right to a quality education enabled by technology.
Technology is a double-edged sword, says King. It furthers the digital divide as people fail to adapt, but presents opportunities to close that gap. Hurst notes that in the evolving world, greater access to goods and services is only available for people equipped with the skills to seize them. We need to actively teach these skills if we want to keep up with technological advances.
HP LIFE provides free online courses for building business and IT skills. Hurst shares that 82% of those who have taken part in the courses express increased confidence for their future. Also, female entrepreneurs created 42% of the startups that emerged from this program. We must give opportunities to diverse talent to maximize our potential for innovation.
How male leaders can support women in technology
Hurst emphasizes women’s diverse perspectives, strong viewpoints, and powerful intellect. He says it is important to be deliberate and take extra steps in supporting women in technology. These actions can be subtle – like becoming an active listener. Hurst encourages leaders to hire workforce members from diverse backgrounds.
To cultivate talent, leaders should be engaged in ongoing conversations regarding gender and inclusion: “I think it is really important for leaders to encourage people to be who they are when they come to the job every day. This allows people to truly be the best version of themselves at work.”
Listen to Nate Hurst’s interview on the SHE Innovates podcast.
SHE Innovates is a podcast that shares the stories, challenges, and triumphs of women across innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. Listen to all the series’ podcasts on PodBean.