Melinda Gates Calls For More Women In Tech

Melinda Gates Calls For More Women In Tech
SHARE
THIS



Speaking at Salesforce’s annual conference Dreamforce earlier this month, Melinda Gates discussed the state of women and girls around the world, what can be done to increase diversity in the workplace and why we all stand to benefit from it.

Melinda Gates earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA from Duke University before beginning her career as a Product Manager at Microsoft. As part of the first group of MBA candidates selected by Microsoft in the 1980s, Gates was outnumbered 9:1 by men.

It’s evident that we’ve made huge strides in equality since then. Yet Gates identified three key areas where enormous gaps remain, namely political representation (which is less than 20 per cent in the United States), women in business (just look at the heads of Fortune 500 companies and boards) and the technology sector.

When Melinda Gates was at college, 38 per cent of degrees in computer science were being awarded to women. But while law and medicine schools have seen significant increases in the number of female graduates, the percentage of females graduating in computer science has fallen from 38 per cent to just 17 per cent in the US today.

To put this into context, Gates elaborates, “at a time when technology has exploded and is providing some of the most exciting and well paid sustainable jobs, there are virtually no women coming through the ranks.”

Gates warns that if this doesn’t change, the consequences are serious. Using the American Constitution as an example, she challenged the audience to think about a constitution that was created by white men sitting round a table in 1787. In particular, how challenging and time-consuming it has been to make any changes to this constitution over the last few hundred years.

She argues that technology is similar to the constitution in that it is pervasive in society. Data and artificial intelligence is leading to early diagnosis in medicine, self-driving cars, greater precision in medicine and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Technology is affecting every aspect of our society, not just the world we work in of marketing and advertising.  Not having women and other minority groups represented now means that we will affect how technology grows and develops, along with society.

Gates talked about a new health app that came out in the US which answered everyday health questions for consumers. And then it emerged that it had missed one key health topic that affects half the population on a monthly basis. Yes, menstruation. “That’s a pretty big miss”, she says.

When thinking about emerging technology and the huge growth we’ve seen in digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, Gates questions “Why are they always women’s voices? The workforce I work in also has male assistants. Why do we put women in the “assistant’ role and not the expert position?”

Even data can be biased, Gates continues, “AI is phenomenal and it could democratise society but it’s got to be created in the right way. Everyone has to have a seat at the table so the data you’re putting into creating the system is unbiased. For example, an app using photo recognition that can’t recognise skin colour or eye shape. Diversity has to be rich in the system. We are all part of society.”

What do we do?

Gates claims there’s a “leaky pipehole” from elementary school to high school to college and from college into industry.

“One point to look at is the college entry point. There’s only a few colleges that makes the problems that technology solves interesting to women. We need to stop putting engineering schools in the basement. Computer science should be a fantastic place where women want to pursue this area. Women should want to code.”

She argues transparency and data is also key. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has led the way in equal pay by opening his books and reviewing whether every employee is truly being paid equal pay for equal work.

Gates who co-founded the largest private foundation in the world, the Gates Foundation, says she has also been trying to “walk the talk”. Ah the Foundation, they now keep the recruitment pool open until they have enough female candidates come through so they can interview the same number of men and women.

“We all need to be role models. I’m trying to put my voice behind paid family leave, not maternity leave. Evidence has shown that if men participate in a child’s life early on, they play a role the whole way through. And we (as employers) have to make that possible.”

 

Latest News

Monday TV Wrap: Brownlow Coverage Awards Seven The Medal
  • Media

Monday TV Wrap: Brownlow Coverage Awards Seven The Medal

Seven enjoyed a stellar night last night and it was all thanks to its Brownlow Medal coverage that saw Hawthorn’s Tom Mitchell crowned the AFL’s best and fairest for the 2018 season. Coverage of the actual medal event pulled an impressive 895,000 for the network, while the earlier red carpet arrivals also did well with 633,000 viewers tuning-in […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Stellar Concepts Wins PR Duties For New Sydney Food Festival
  • Marketing

Stellar Concepts Wins PR Duties For New Sydney Food Festival

Communications agency Stellar Concepts has been appointed by IMG Culinary to deliver a PR campaign for the launch of Taste of Sydney Collective. The food festival is an evolution of IMG’s ‘Taste of’ festival series fusing food, culture and music. Taking place at the Cutaway in Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct during November, the highly-curated event will […]

SPEED To Handle Media Planning For QICGRE
  • Media

SPEED To Handle Media Planning For QICGRE

SPEED has been appointed QICGRE’s communications strategy and channel planning agency with immediate effect. QICGRE are operators of 26 shopping centre’s across Australia, including Eastland, Castle Towers, Westpoint, Canberra Centre, Robina Town Centre and Grand Central. SPEED will provide portfolio communication recommendations across the business, as well as direct media planning support for each shopping […]

Former One Green Bean CEO Carl Ratcliff Resurfaces At DDB Sydney
  • Advertising

Former One Green Bean CEO Carl Ratcliff Resurfaces At DDB Sydney

DDB Australia has announced the appointment of former One Green Bean CEO Carl Ratcliff as chief strategy officer of DDB Sydney. Ratcliff’s appointment comes just over two weeks after it was announced that Claire Salvetti would replace him as CEO of One Green Bean. Ratcliff has more than 20 years’ experience in the world of building brands […]

The Best Time Of The Day To Check Your Emails
  • Opinion

The Best Time Of The Day To Check Your Emails

Bombarded by too many emails? Are the the little buggers taking up more of your time than they effectively should? Well, let Inventium founder and B&T regular Dr Amantha Imber (pictured below) pass on her sage words on tackling your electronic mail avalanche… I have a confession to make. I love checking email. I love how productive I feel smashing through […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Culture As A Competitive Advantage
  • Opinion

Culture As A Competitive Advantage

Emma Bannister (pictured below) is founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations. In her latest B&T post, Bannister says a good office culture brings a myriad of advantages you probably have not even […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
M&C Saatchi’s This. Film Studio Announces Nat Geo Doco Series On Rhino Conservation 
  • Campaigns

M&C Saatchi’s This. Film Studio Announces Nat Geo Doco Series On Rhino Conservation 

M&C Saatchi Group’s film and television production studio THIS. has revealed its first major project, a two-part documentary series in partnership with National Geographic, Cisco Systems, Canon Australia and Land Rover South Africa. The documentary series, hosted by cricket legend Kevin Pietersen and outback wrangler Matt Wright with conservationist and Canon Australia Photographer, Julia Wheeler, […]

Ovarian Cancer Australia Appoints 10 Feet Tall As Its Integrated Agency Partner
  • Media

Ovarian Cancer Australia Appoints 10 Feet Tall As Its Integrated Agency Partner

Following a competitive pitch process, 10 feet tall is standing proud as the newly appointed agency for Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA). The agency’s response to a complex brief included a strong multifaceted brand platform that spans all media and includes mainstream media working in conjunction with fundraisers and activations for the charity throughout the calendar […]