The Magic of Unicorns: The Powerful Impact of Women Leaders on Tech Organisations

Nicola Buckley
Executive Leadership Coach
Automatic Summary

Unleashing the Power of Unicorns: How Empowered Women Transform Tech Organizations

Today we delve into an intriguing and thought-provoking topic: the magic of unicorns. Not of the mythical kind, but the unique women in leadership roles in tech organizations who, like unicorns, are remarkable and often, too rare.

Meet the Unicorns: The Game-Changing Women Leaders in Tech

In the context of the tech industry, unicorns are women who are in high-ranking roles. Appointed to these positions based on sheer merit, these unicorns are the top-flight directors, CEOs, and board members. Unicorns also refer to the promising women being groomed to take on these roles in the future.

These women are unique and special in many ways. They are trailblazers, disruptors, and change-makers. Often, they are the only ones in the room who look like them, who bring assorted perspectives and ideas to the table. They not only bear huge responsibilities and deliver extraordinary results, but they also help others rise, pulling up aspiring women leaders and fostering a more inclusive working environment. However, these unicorns are still too rare, a reality that needs urgent change.

The Changing Landscape of Tech Leadership

Despite being underrepresented, there's encouraging evidence that the presence of more women, aka unicorns, in senior leadership positions is increasing, positively affecting the face of the tech sector. Data from Catalyst and the McKinsey Report reveals that:

  • 90% of companies now have at least one woman on their board.
  • 20% of tech companies now have five or more women on their boards.
  • 31% of the senior management positions are occupied by women.

While we are still far from parity, these stats show a hopeful upward trend that signals change in the offing.

Empowered Women Impact Organizations Beyond Gender Equality

As more unicorns ascend in leadership rungs in tech organizations, there is a tangible positive shift. The business benefits go beyond diversifying senior leadership - it also means:

  • Increased loyalty and engagement
  • Longer employee tenure and reduced recruitment costs
  • An open, coaching, and inclusive culture fostering creativity
  • Improved bottom line, with every 10% increase in gender diversity leading to a 3.5% increase in earnings before interest and tax rate.

It's clear: having more unicorns is not a 'nice to have' anymore. It's a business imperative.

Paving the Way: Two Routes to Change

So how do we create an environment that not only attracts more women but also supports them in climbing the leadership ladder? How do we foster a company culture that celebrates diversity and equality?

The answer lies in the two-pronged approach of supporting women through every stage of their career journey and driving cultural change within the organization.

From recruitment and onboarding to providing continuous development and mentoring, and supporting those returning from career breaks, companies must ensure that they are giving women the tools and resources they need to succeed. At a cultural level, the onus is on top leaders to role model the behaviour that fosters an open and inclusive culture.

Parting Thoughts: Enabling More Unicorns is Critical

While the tech sector is starting to see more women in senior roles, these women, our 'unicorns', are still too few and we need to do more to change this. These women are not only delivering in significant roles but are paving the way for future generations of female leaders. How we support them and create conducive environments, and a robust pipeline for more unicorns, is what will determine the future success of tech organizations.

Remember, equipping, enabling and empowering more unicorns is no longer an option; it's a necessity for leading companies in today's competitive tech landscape.

Video Transcription

I am Nicola Skoro. Um I am gonna be taking you through a brand new talk that I've created for today. Very, very excited about it. Um All about the magic of unicorns.So, what do I mean by that essentially about the powerful impact women leaders have on tech organizations? Um Like I said, this is a brand new talk um that I put together for the women in tech conference and I'm really, really happy to be here today. Um And I think it's a really, really powerful conference. So I'm delighted to be part of it. So what I'm gonna be taking you through today, so I'll quickly introduce myself just so you know who you're talking to. Um And then I'll be introducing our unicorns. So who are they? What makes them a unicorn? And why are they so so important? Um Then talking about the context and the rarity of unicorns. So what is the wider context of women in leadership in tech? Um Then talk about the changing world of work because we've had so much change over the last few years. Actually, there's so much change, it is time to really drive change even more. So um and then really sharing the power of unicorn. So what's the impact of having more women in those more senior leadership positions? Um And it's not just, it's not just a hope, it's not just a nice to have anymore, it's actually a need to have because it really impacts on bottom line profit.

Um And then also the two rows to change. So what, where do we need to be starting to really have more women in those more senior leadership positions? And then finally, just any key takeaways as we're going through as well. I'll be asking you just to think about certain things as we go through the slides. Um And I do have access, I can see the chat so you can just pop it into the chat if you've got any comments as we go through. Ok, so very quickly just to introduce myself. So I am Nicholas Goo. So I'm an IC F accredited executive leadership coach. Um And I work with organizations and I work with their very top uh women at the top of their organization, their future talent to really just to get more women into those most senior roles to really help those organizations close the gender pay gap. Um So I have a uh chart topping uh podcast called women at the top of telecoms and tech. Um And that's been downloaded um in 30 different countries. It has thousands of listeners which I'm really really proud of um my background. So I am, I do understand how it is to be the only woman in the room. Um So I had a 16 year high flying corporate career. Um I was running multimillion pound launches for household names, um particularly telecoms companies. So I've had that background.

So I kind of understand the pressures and challenges come with being a woman working in, in tech and telecoms. Um and I now live down in Cornwall. I live on the beach and my now husband are two dogs. Um I'm uh training to swim the channel in June. Um And I'm also learning Polish because my husband is Polish. So that's uh that's who I am and that's who you're talking to today. So just wanted to start off by introducing our unicorns. And I don't know if you've heard of the concept of unicorns before. You might have heard it in relation to kind of tech start up companies, but I use it in a different context. So let's just get really, really clear who we're talking about. Um This photo was from um a new um networking action group that I've just started recently called the Trailblazers. And we met for the first time in London just over a month ago. Um And these women are the unicorns that I'm talking about. So these women are women who are in those very most senior roles. Um They are women who are the most senior directors, they're CEO S they're on the board or they are future talent that are going to take those roles in the future. Um And these women are really, they are trail rate blazers. Um, they are women who are change makers. Um and they are women who are changing the world, but they are often also the women who are often the only ones in the room.

Um, they're often women that the more senior they become, the less they see a people that look like and sound like they're more, more diverse groups. Um And they are women who not only do they have big roles and responsibilities, but they also reaching down the ladder and helping others up. So they really are unicorns because they are very rare. Um Not so much. So I'll share some stats and numbers to show how it's changed in a moment, but they are rare. They are rarity still. So they often are the only one in the room who looks for, sounds like them. Um They're also unicorns because they are, they create magic because not only are they, they delivering in big roles that they really hard to get to where they are, but they're also reaching down the ladder to help others up to create those cultures that are more inclusive that where there's more connection between people and when there's more uh parity and equality for all.

Um And they're also unicorns because they are the ones that are gonna drive change, they are the ones that are gonna create that change in the future as well. Um, and they stand out and above all, they give hope to others. So just almost, they set that role model of, you don't need to look only one way or be from a certain background or, or from a certain race or certain socio-economic background to get to where you want to be. and actually they open that world of opportunity for other people. So if you're watching live, what I would love to you think about is just share in the chat. Do you recognize this concept of being a unicorn? Um And who in your career do you recognize as a unicorn or do you feel that you're a unicorn yourself? Um So just the context and kind of like the rarity of, of uh unicorns. So I'm, I'm a bit of a geek. So I love stats that I think bring to life, the stories and the context of what we're talking about here. Um So just in again, you put in today's um talk together, I just really want to kind of hone in on just I think the key message here is that there's still, there's a huge amount of way to go to have more women in those most senior leadership positions is really gonna drive the change um that we need in tech, tech organizations.

But there's definitely hope because those the stats that we've got here, there's been shifts and changes even over the last few years to see that there's more women rep represented at most senior level. So for example, 90 these are all um stats are available from catalysts. Um And they're also from the mckinsey report as well. So just to source where those are from, so 90% of companies have at least one woman on the board now, which is really heartening because again, that's a shift and change over the last few years. Um And particularly in tech, 20% of tech companies now have five plus women on their boards. So that has increased a lot over the last few years and that's on the rise. So it's, it's uh it's got real momentum and 31% of proportion of women are in those more senior management positions. So we know the triangle that the more senior the position has become, there's less women in the room, but we know that that's starting to change. Um Fortune 500 com global companies reported an all time high of 23 women C Os and six women of color. So, is that enough? No, not at all. But again, is there that upward momentum and change? Yes, absolutely. Um And just the final step that I really want to share was just around.

We see a lot of women that tend to be in those hr director type roles where there's that, that focus on other people and that focus on uh creating talent and creating more connection and creating more um just really making an organization where people have really looked afterwards, that parity, that fairness role.

Um So women in hr director roles, there is, it is a high proportion yet that has decreased, decreased over the last few years. And that's been matched by an increased proportion of women that in roles that are those even more critical kind of decision making roles around CEO CFO and Cio. So maybe those less traditional female roles and we're seeing more and more of that. So again, I'd love you to share in the chat. What's your reaction to these statistics? Are you surprised? Do you uh they just what you expected and what do you see? What, what do you see or what have you seen in your organization? So I think it's really important as well when we're talking about vehicles just to recognize that it's a very much a change world of work over the last few years, which really for me leads on to a huge opportunity to just really drive home even more change because we've got that momentum of change anyway.

So we've seen just a huge change in terms of companies now setting people up, setting employees up so they can work from home. There's more flexible working. So there's more support for if you want to work compressed hours, for example, or if you need to take a career break and then return. So it's almost that increase in flexibility which opens more opportunities for women going into senior management and also increase in job sharing.

Um And some really brilliant morals that we've had in the UK and women in really senior positions, but also job sharing. But what does this lead to? It does lead into those blurred boundaries if you're working more from home? So potentially that b blurred boundaries of when you start your working day and when you finish your working day and how do you switch off and go from one to the other? So you're focused on work and then you move into focusing on family time or you're finding it harder to switch off because it means that you can always be, if you've got your work phone, if you've got emails on your phone, you're always connected. So it's down to us to kind of set those boundaries and be really clear on when we're switching off. But it does make it harder to switch off because we've always got that connection to work. The digitalization of 24 7, it feels it can feel like work is never done. So it's constantly on our mind. And again, it's down to us to set those clear, very clear boundaries and expectations. Um We've seen in a lot of organization in the tech world, uh restructure redundancies following on from that. Um And just changes in organizational structure. So there's more demands or the same demands with less resource.

Um I know for a client recently she'd gone from a team of 10 to a team of two. Yeah, her workload was the same and just helping and supporting her, manage, manage and look after herself through that. Um And really again, for women, there is that invisible load. So I'm not here to dictate how you run your life or how you manage your family and your relationships, not at all, but just we tend to take on more responsibilities at home. We tend to be the ones thinking about where, where do the Children need to be? What do they need? We tend to be the ones thinking about just organizing the household and there is a shift in change in that. Absolutely. But we do naturally step into that. So it's created this age of ambiguity for one of the best term. Um And it's impacting all employees but women most of all. So what I would love you to do is just to share in the chat, which of these do you think has impacted you most from the list above? Um 10 minutes. Yeah. Yeah. And the impact on women leaders. So stack one always more. So we feel like we can potentially over give, we can overwork, we over deliver because we're constantly proving ourselves in this new era of work and then that can lead to frustration resentment of feeling like you're invisible because it's never enough, no matter how much you do, it never feels enough.

And then that can lead on to step three where it almost feels like we lose our confidence. It's like I can't do this anymore so it can lead to burnout. It can lead to feeling much more anxious. It can lead into depression and taking time off work. So again, lovely to share and chat. Do you recognize this cycle at all? And do you recognize it for yourself or for others around you? So the power of unicorns? So let's get back to our unicorns that we've set the context of the changing world of work and we see it again and again and again, this isn't a nice to have anymore. This is a need to have because there's very tangible business benefits of having more of these. Uh unicorns are very most senior roles taken by women. So for example, we have more increased diversity across minority groups and a more inclusive culture when there's more women, more unicorns in those most senior roles. Um we have increased loyal loyalty uh with our employees, we have increased engagement and flexibility as well.

Um We tend to have also longer tenure. So people staying in organizations for longer, reduce recruitment costs and also becoming an employer of choice because you see more people that look like you because in your interview process, it's not just, it's not just, you're not just interviewed by a man, but there's more of a arranged diversity.

It also means it's a shift more of an open and coaching culture, which means that just that opportunity and that safe s sense of psychological safety to be more creative, to try things on, to not be hard on yourself if you fail. But no, actually, it's just you're getting to a solution in a quicker way. And the most important one here, I think is that bottom line impact that for every 10% increase in gender diversity earnings before interest and tax rate rose by a glaring 3.5%. So again, this is where that increase in the number of unicorns and mo more women in the most senior roles. It's not just a nice to have, it's a need to have, it's gonna become a business critical factor, especially as uh tech and telcom market more and more competitive. So how do we do this? How do we start to get there? So there's really, there's two rows to change, there's two rows to guessing there. Um And I'm fortunate to uh help organizations. Both of these. The first road is very much looking at supporting women across the life cycle of them working with you. So that starts with looking at your recruitment adverts that starts with your recruitment process and your on boarding process when those women have accepted those roles.

It's also then looking at the development and support that they need and not just mentoring, but do these women need to come together? Do they need support as they're going through? What support do they get if they go off work when they have a child and they come back and they're returning? How do we make sure they step into a role that's still big enough for them? So it's really looking at how we support women through their life cycle of employment with the company. Um And not only just for women, but then also thinking of go across different diverse groups, how do we support just bringing in people that and, and getting them to stay, how do we make them feel part of our community, part of our organization? The other part that then needs to change is really around the company culture. Um And just really opening, making sure that people, we maybe their frameworks of bias that they have, like we all have um making sure that there's a very clear line on what is and isn't acceptable and making sure that yeah, five minutes left.

Thank you and making sure that there's ways of reporting behavior that isn't acceptable. So how do we make that shift, making a tangible shift that more of an open culture, a more diverse culture where people feel very safe where there's parity for all um where people feel safe and that it is fair. So again, what are the frameworks for that? And also the very top leaders role modeling that behavior. So calling out behavior that isn't acceptable stopping language and, and just highlighting someone, actually, their language is outdated and not to make, not to judge anyone, not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Um But really just to just to set that line and sound, this is what we expect. This is our company culture. Um We've seen from stats again, I'm a bit of a geek we've seen from stats that actually the more discerning younger generations now joining organizations, it's not just a salary that's important to them. It's actually joining an organization that has a positive impact on the world, an organization where they feel safe to be themselves and whatever that brings with them. Ok, so key takeaway from today's session. So there is good news.

We are seeing more women getting into those most senior roles in organization, but these women are still unicorns that are still the often ones, the only ones in the room. Um So it can be a really lonely position. Um It can be really just take a lot to you giving of so much of yourself for so long to get to those most senior positions and sacrificing a lot along the way. Um And then really knowing that actually their role models then for just they're treading that path for others to follow, they're treading that path to create more diversity. So it doesn't need to just be a a new generation of leaders that look the same. It's actually people from different diverse backgrounds, genders. And it's just, it's really, it's the world of change. Like we talked about how the world of work has changed. It's really accelerating all of that change and it's supporting, it's those two roads then to actually create that.

Um it's focusing on supporting women through that life cycle of their employment with you. But it's also looking at how to change that company culture. So there is that sense of safety. So there is that real um parity and equality for everyone. So everyone has an equal voice and everyone has that equality of opportunity. Um And just to say, those unicorns as well, not only are they delivering in big roles themselves, they're also the one reaching down the ladder to help them top. So how do we support them with that? Allowing them time to do that? Um And really what I would love to know is just share in the chat your light bulb from today's session and is there an action that you're gonna take or something that you're gonna do differently um from what we've covered today. Um And yeah, so thank you so much for having me.