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IWD 2024: The big risk of too few women in Aotearoa's tech sector
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

One of the top 10 business risks recently identified in Aon’s 2023 Global Risk Management Survey is failure to attract and retain top talent.

Good talent is always difficult to find, but the challenge is accentuated even further when you look specifically at the experiences of women in the workforce.

Companies excel when they have the best possible talent in each role, from the C-suite to the front line. An inability to fill these slots and retain top-performing employees can have serious repercussions. Companies depend on top talent to bring in fresh thinking, new strategies, innovation and creativity - all critical elements to remaining competitive.
Without a steady infusion of talent, companies may lack the skill sets they need to keep pace with market and industry trends. 

For organisations that also have practices enabling gender inequality, this can perpetuate reduced professional engagement among women in the workplace, lower productivity, weaker business outcomes and, most tellingly, poor staff retention. Essentially if workers aren’t happy with the working environment, they will eventually leave.

This harsh reality, affecting half of the working-age population, is something that business leaders need to address if they want to take staff retention seriously.

At Aon, we help businesses manage risk, navigating them through an increasingly complex and volatile world. If we were to apply that lens to this issue, the biggest risk I see is that we are unintentionally limiting the number of bright minds we have available to address some of the biggest problems facing businesses today.

This is particularly true of professional IT roles, where men still outnumber women by as much as four to one in New Zealand.

Looking back at the Global Risk Management Survey, the danger of not addressing this issue is reflected right at the top of the list.

The single biggest issue keeping business leaders awake at night is the threat of cybersecurity attacks or data breaches.

Worryingly, women comprised only a quarter of the global cybersecurity workforce in 2022, again posing the question: which bright minds are not considering cybersecurity as a career choice?

There’s work to be done, and every sector has a role to play in this journey, including Aon - which is why we’ve developed global initiatives like the Women’s International Network, which strives to promote the development of a diverse talent pool.

A Bloomberg study released in 2021 revealed that increased participation in the workforce by women could add US$20 trillion to the global economy by 2050. There are gains to be made here for every sector of business, particularly tech and science. Viewed another way, not getting this right could end up costing businesses across the world trillions of dollars over the next two and a half decades.

There’s evidence that fewer than one in 20 girls consider a high-paid career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, compared to one in five boys.

Progress is being made to shift perceptions and solve this problem, but this is an ongoing struggle.

Much as is the case with other big issues like climate change, the onus is on all of us to play our part in making the changes that need to happen.

The risk of not doing anything is simply too large.