Last year was one of momentous and fast-moving events, with social media platforms accelerating the speed of change. The world we now live in today has brought plenty of much-needed attention to matters of gender equality. And with a rapidly changing social and cultural landscape, several industries have been forced to reckon with patterns of gender inequality and sheer discrimination that have been largely ignored for years.

With new stories of discrimination and lack of access to opportunities in the news almost daily, companies and industries have had to take a good, long look inwards and take stock of their progress — or lack thereof. This changing tide has helped women become more vocal about the need for equality, and many companies have experienced a sudden rude awakening over the slew of allegations.

Unfortunately, many companies in the change-embracing world of tech still remain far behind when it comes to creating inclusive, merit-based work cultures that avoid gender-based discrimination. As leaders in an industry committed to improving lives while shattering archaic conventions, it’s time we show leadership through concrete action.

Making Gender a Non-Issue

Despite progress in several industries, the tech world still faces issues with diversity in the workplace. As evidenced by the controversial missive posted by a male Google engineer deriding diversity in tech due to biological factors, some in the industry seemingly feel inequality and discrimination are overblown.

However, the numbers tell a different story. Across seven major tech companies, women make up at most 30 percent of leadership roles and less than 27 percent of technical roles. Diversity initiatives and pushes for girls to get engaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in school have already had an impact, but barriers remain imminent.

Trickle-Down Equality

In an industry that remains well behind the curve in hiring female executives — according to a 2016 study on corporate governance in Silicon Valley, only 14.1 percent of board positions were filled by women — a strong focus on diversity leads to better results. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics of more than 21,000 publicly traded companies found that the presence of more female leaders in top positions of corporate management correlates with increased profitability of these companies.

At a time when a disproportionate amount of women report discrimination — 42 percent of women surveyed by Pew Research against 22 percent of men — having executives at the top who are familiar with these issues and can offer a more balanced approach is vital to encouraging diversity. Our company’s diverse executives and staff encourage more women to step up without having to rely on programs or diversity initiatives, confident in the knowledge that their work will speak for itself.

More importantly, the steady and constant presence of a female point of view prevents our company from devolving into practices many companies in Silicon Valley and the tech world are accused of perpetuating. A strong focus on finding the best idea, period, regardless of who is suggesting it, has given us the ability to grow and find optimal solutions.

Creating a More Equal Workforce

Diversity doesn’t just come from the top down, however. It’s crucial to encourage open views about diversity at the employee level to create better awareness and reduce discrimination. A greater variety of backgrounds offers more views on a problem and can lead to better outcomes.

Moreover, excluding women in projects has shown to lead to less success. Apple, for example, launched a health kit in 2014 that was meant to track every aspect of physical health. The team didn’t include any wellbeing factors familiar to women, such as menstrual cycles or menopause, and was perhaps unsurprisingly staffed entirely by men.

At my own company, we strive for diversity across every team — not simply at the gender level, but across backgrounds and even ages. More importantly, this diversity in project teams is not forced from the top down. Instead, team members will push for more heterogeneous groups and a broader set of opinions. By creating a more inclusive team, we have been able to encourage greater gender equality without having to resort to expensive plans or initiatives. Instead, we focus on hiring the best and create an environment that welcomes talented members to join without fear of discrimination.

Setting plans to increase the number of women in the workplace and reduce discrimination and harassment are vital to company and industry growth, as they reduce hostility and lead to a safer work environment for all employees. Real change requires not just changing policies but how companies approach employees’ merit and how we incentivize the best ideas.

Inbal Lavi is the CEO of Webpals Group.

The world we now live in today has brought plenty of much needed attention to matters of gender equality. Pixabay