Why the future of digital technology needs the support of more women

"Gender diversity is not just good for women. It's good for anyone who wants results," said Melinda Gates. Many researchers believe that gender diversity can foster innovation. It also leads to better performance and greater profits.

McKinsey research has shown that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than organizations in the fourth quartile. Yet, we are seeing fewer women enter the technology industry. In Silicon Valley, only 13% of management positions are held by women. At the same time, women represent less than 7% of entrepreneurs.

Women remain under-represented in the digital economy

Female students and employees are still under-represented in STEM-related fields. Less than a third of female students choose to study higher education courses in math and engineering. Women working in STEM publish less and get paid 10% less on average.

Science and gender equality are critical to reaching the world's sustainable development goals, points out the United Nations. As a result, long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields.

Digital is about empowering societies in the future, yet only around 17% of ICT specialists are women, and 19% of European ICT entrepreneurs are women. Women must have active participation in technology "to shape a sustainable, fair and equitable digital economy and society," says the European Commission.

In Europe, 53% of companies trying to recruit ICT specialists report difficulties in finding qualified people. "The issue of gender equality is the main challenge for Orange and a subject close to my heart. Despite the progress we see in our business and society, there is still a lot to do – and we must remain mobilized to break down the barriers that still exist," says Stéphane Richard, Chairman and Chief Executive of Orange.

Working to close the gender diversity gap

Orange believes that gender equality in all functions and at all levels of the industry is a powerful performance enabler and is committed to closing the gender gap.

"As a major player in the sector, we have great responsibilities, and we must continue to work to give women the opportunity to create value thanks to digital technology and the service of its uses," explains Richard.

In 2019, Orange signed the UNI Global Union, an innovative global agreement on workplace gender equality, work-life balance and combatting discrimination. It marked a new milestone in the Orange social and societal commitment. In 2021, Orange ranked in the top 10 of 3,700 companies around the world for gender equality. Currently, 36% of employees are women, with 32% in management positions and 20.5% in technical roles.

Last year, Orange launched the Hello Women program to increase female representation in digital and technical job roles. The program is designed to raise awareness of technical jobs among girls and students and, at the same time, identify, recruit and retain more women in technical professions.

On the training front, the Orange Foundation has set up 320 digital houses, many in Africa. These centers are designed to provide free training to women to support digital awareness and develop income-generating activities. It provides them with basic training in software, Internet use and financial management. "An FAO study showed that women reinvest 90% of their income to meet family needs. The more women with better careers means contributing to the living conditions of the population," explains Elisabeth Medou-Bedang, Zone Director and Spokesperson for Orange Africa and the Middle East, who confirmed that 30,000 vulnerable women have already received training.

"Digital houses also give women the opportunity to enter economic and social life when they thought it was far too late to go back to school," adds Medou-Bedang.

Why the future of digital technology needs the support of more women

Empowering women in the digital age

It is paramount that women are included in digital developments and do not miss out on future digital jobs. Only 12% of researchers in artificial intelligence (AI) are women. If men predominantly design AI, there is a risk it will reproduce or even amplify existing equalities.

At the same time, young women must have more role models in the industry and are encouraged to enter the evolving digital world. "My advice to young women hesitant about entering the tech industry is dare, dare, because you have all to gain, and so does the world and business," says Elizabeth Tchoungui, Executive Director, CSR, Diversity and Philanthropy, and Deputy Chair for the Orange Foundation.

Read about what Orange is doing to promote gender equality actively here and here, and recruiting more women in technical roles here.