Exclusive: Women Bring More Tech Expertise to the Boardroom Than Men Do
If you want a director with plenty of tech experience on your board, hire a woman.
According to new Accenture research, female members of corporate boards are nearly twice as likely as their male counterparts to have professional technology experience, which the study defined as either holding a key tech position at a previous employer—such as CTO or CIO—or having senior-level responsibility at a technology firm.
Accenture looked at women’s representation on the boards of more than 500 Forbes Global 2000 companies in 39 countries across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Australia. Overall, 16% of the women on these companies boards have digital experience, vs. 9% of men.
Breaking down those numbers by country, the trend toward women being more likely to have a tech background held true for seven of the ten countries in the study. In the U.S., 26% of female board members have tech experience, vs. 17% of men. In the U.K. and Australia, the difference is even more drastic: 18% vs. 9% and 14% vs. 4%, respectively.
One notable exception is Canada, where 8% of male board members have tech experience, vs. 4% of women.
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The depth of directors’ technology experience also varies by industry. As might be expected, board members of tech companies are the most likely to have tech backgrounds, with 51% of female and 37% of male directors professionally versed in technology. Members of communications company boards were also quite digitally savvy, with 29% of women and 18% having held senior technology roles.
This study helps to debunk the commonly held belief that the paucity of female directors—women held one in every five board seats at S&P 500 companies last year—is due to a lack of qualified women.
“As technology disrupts virtually every industry, companies need to think more broadly about the type of skills and experience needed for their boards, including getting more technology acumen into the boardroom. At the same time, they need to stay focused on gender diversity, since organizations with diversity at the board level perform better,” said Roxanne Taylor, Accenture’s chief marketing and communications officer, in a statement shared exclusively with Fortune.
Companies with a high representation of women on their boards tend to have better financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors, according to Catalyst, a research group that tracks executive women.
“It’s clear that more and more jobs—up to and including the board level—will require technology skills,” added Taylor. “With the number of women pursuing computer science degrees hovering around 20 percent, we need to find new ways to get women excited about technology as early as possible.”