Japan is one of the richest countries in the world. The total personal financial assets in the country are worth US$14.36 trillion. It occupies the 17th position of countries of higher quality of life. If I ask you to name five important japaness companies, you will probably mention: Toyota, Mitsubishi, Sony, Nintendo and Sega, but what If I ask you to name 5 japaness companies founded in the last 5 years. Could you mention any?
When it comes to innovation, things are less rosy for Japan, and one of the main reasons is diversity.
Japanesse culture is really close to foreing people. Two million of the population -of 127 million- are inmigrants, and when it comes to innovation, just 7% are entrepreneurs.
Innovation is about opening the culture to new ideas which can come from professionals with different backgrounds which create new and different things.
The same happens with the issue of women in the technological area. This is not a matter of feminism or claiming rights (which is also something to pay attention to), it is about the progress of technology. With women, the technological field expands to new and different ideas and projects. Giving opportunities to women to be leaders could provide different experience to a company than maybe is used to male leadership.
The workforce of tech companies are predominantly white, Asian, and male. A recent survey of the top nine tech companies in Silicon Valley by Fortune reveals that on average, women embrace about one-third of the workforce. But the gap increases in proportion to the higher you go in an organization, with the best companies showing women holding 29% of leadership jobs. Companies are trying to make a better progress on ethnic diversity, although not in leadership roles for women.
Fluendo CEO Mercé Delgado confesses that women’s exclusion in tech is more than evident: “I feel there is more reluctance in the technological area to give opportunities to women. Because it has always been believed in men engineers and today there are many more men than women engineers. Breaking those barriers is hard. In my case, I’m not an engineer, I’m a financial and I came to the company as CCO and then I gave the leap to CEO, but if I had to enter directly as a CEO, it would have been more complicated for me than for a man, because I would’ve had to show more skills. Proving that you are good for any position is more difficult for women than for men and it is not just in tech companies”.
People say that this issue exists because there are more men than women studying engineering. Recently updated information indicates that the participation in STEM electives for girls and boy are equal number. For example: at Stanford and Berkeley Universities, 50% of students in the introductory computer science are women. So education part is not the main problem, the underlying issue that must be addressed to solve this situation is the hidden and often overt discrimination that prevails in the tech industry. And it is affecting innovation directly.
Innovation builds itself from creating talent, giving opportunities to everyone to reach success. Anne Driscoll, CMO at Startup Genome said in the framework of the Startup Grind Conference “The (Silicon) Valley is created with broken dreams and it is not always fair, but if we globally make success together, you contribute to creating an enviroment to encourage more and more innovation, and the diversity is the right ingredient for that”.
Having more women developers in leadership roles opens new doors for new products that satisfy different needs. Katie Massie -Taylor and Sarah Hesz created Musk, a succesfull app for mums to meet local mums with kids the same age. The Danish internet entrepreneur Ida Tin launched in 2013 Clue a female health app. The company was listed as one of Europe’s Hottest Startups in 2015 by Wired UK and has more than 2.5 million users from 180 different countries.
New Ideas come from new minds and for this reason innovation is everyone’s matter
Also, related to leadership, women have showed incredible skills. In a study led by Professor Øyvind L. Martinsen, head of Leadership and Organisational Behaviour at the BI Norwegian Business School, in 3,000 managers. Women outperformed men in four of the five categories studied: initiative and clear communication; openness and ability to innovate; sociability and supportiveness; and methodical management and goal-setting.
However men did appear to be better than women at dealing with work-related stress and they had higher levels of emotional stability.
Even so, the number of women CEOs in the world is relatively lower than that of men. In the list Fortune 500 of 2017, 32 were women –just 6.4% of the list.
So, yes, there is still a long way to go. If we all think that innovation is everyone’s matter, we need to think about inclusion and diversity.
We return to Japan’s example. Japan is a wealthy country but poor in ideas that has been positioned as one of the countries with the largest external debt in the world. Because the world is giving the back to closed societies because this is the only way to walk into the future.