Empowering Women in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

elev8 - 4 min read

Forty inspiring female business leaders leading digital transformation

Women Leading Digital Transformation

Elev8 has long been a champion of women’s empowerment within digital industries and, as a testament of its commitment to this goal, recently hosted the Changemakers Women Unconference in Costa Rica.

Bringing together 40 inspiring female business leaders in tech, the conference discussed the challenges that still inhibit women trying to achieve positions of leadership in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields and tech organizations.

Among these were the need for lifelong learning support, discriminatory policies and culture, and a lack of female role models. The impressive line-up of speakers included Elev8’s President, Maria Balbas and Jeannie Bonilla, Head of Global Learning.

Creating female leaders in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Starting with education, it’s no secret that there is still a glaring discrepancy in the representation of women within STEM. This education gap threatens to create a further gulf of income inequality as the world transitions to a primarily digital economy whose key skills for lucrative roles will be heavily STEM dependent.

Global statistics paint a stark picture of women in STEM education with the U.N. finding in 2022 that women accounted for only 5% of science and mathematics students worldwide and 8% of all manufacturing, construction, and engineering students.

A major contributor to this disparity is caused by ongoing gender discrimination against women in these fields which has also prevented the rise of adequate numbers of female role models for others to follow.

Paulina Ramirez, formerly of Costa Rica’s National Liberation Party, spoke at the conference of her experiences of political and gender discrimination:

I started in the Municipality of Cartago, in the Information Technology Unit, then as Vice Mayor. There was a Mayor who did not let me appear in the photos, I have suffered from political violence. It has been a challenge, opening my field in a world dominated by men, especially in the different areas where I worked…

…I have won spaces for my merits, by my own light, I am not interested in having medals, my satisfaction is that I have seen the results of what I have done.

The irony of such discrimination is that in an increasingly competitive economic environment, those organizations that have embraced female empowerment and leadership have flourished as a result.

The Journal of Empirical Finance found in 2018 that a 10% increase in female directors coincided with a 7% increase in innovation patents and citations

McKinsey reported in 2021 that, in UK businesses, every 10% increase of gender diversity in senior executive positions tracked with a consistent 3.5% in revenue before interest and tax

Last year, Harvard Business Review found that companies that integrated women into C-Suite positions benefitted from a 1.1% average increase in R&D investments due to ‘higher levels of both openness to change and aversion to risk’

The picture these statistics paint is clear: An increase in female leadership translates to more innovation, increased revenues, and more stable risk profiles. Balancing innovation and risk will be a central challenge in the near future as technological advancement continues to accelerate and as for revenues, well, who doesn’t want to improve their bottom line?

Addressing gender inequality in business

Carla White, who worked as a coach at Intel for more than 20 years, gave a brief example of how to implement changes in culture and policy to empower female leaders:

  1. Commitment from the Board of Directors
  2. Intentionality: Developing and disseminating new cultural ideals and actively championing them
  3. Defining short and long-term goals with measurable metrics of success
  4. Encouraging responsibility for these goals among mentors and coaches and creating allies for women
  5. Recognizing the positive actions and leadership that female employees demonstrate
  6. Providing flexibility to account for the gender biases that hinder women in work
  7. Ensuring pay equity

Closing thoughts

The Changemakers Unconference, as well as an ever-growing mountain of data, has demonstrated that supporting women leading digital transformation is not only ethical, it’s also good business. Organizations that wish to reap the benefits of increased innovation and revenue must implement change on a cultural level that begins with the leaders they already have in place since those who drag their feet will inevitably be left in the dust.

We must create a unique and authentic leadership style, as women we have many strengths and talents. By finding that talent and maximizing it, we can all succeed.

-Maria Balbas, President at Elev8

To learn more about the inspiring women who make up part of Elev8’s leadership team, and our digital skilling programs to empower women for Industry 4.0, visit our insights and services pages at our website.