How deep tech can help close the gender gap

three people working on laptops smiling, digital skills

The term ‘Deep Tech’ was coined in 2014 by Swati Chaturvedi, CEO of investment firm Propel(x), to describe a new category of startup “built on tangible scientific discoveries or engineering innovations”.

Since then, investment in deep tech start ups has reached billions of dollars, with the potential rewards in the order of trillions. The categories of technology covered by deep tech include blockchain, automation and robotics, 3D printing, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, data analytics, cloud computing and high-speed networks. It also includes developments in the life sciences such as genetic modification, nanotechnology, quantum computing and new materials.

Deep technologies are now creating a revolution which has implications for every aspect of an organisation, delivering elevated forms of value to customers in a manner which can both scale and achieve impact not only in relation to financial results, but in a manner which benefits people and our planet through solving our most pressing social and ecological challenges. However, despite the significant technological advances and the new opportunities which they represent for organisations, women are still greatly underrepresented in this industry.

When we look at digital skills in the workplace, businesses and organisations are currently not managing to achieve parity between women and men. According to the European Commission’s 2020 Women in Digital (WiD) Scoreboard, women are still less likely to have specialist digital skills and to work in the digital field compared to men, with only 18% of information and communications technology specialists in the European Union being women.

The aim of deep tech is to find solutions to complex problems through scientific and engineering ingenuity. However, the challenge of achieving breakthrough discoveries is to find a way to facilitate meaningful collaborations across ecosystems by including those demographic groups who do necessarily have traditional socio-educational backgrounds. So in order to help leaders develop a more systemic understanding of deep technologies as a whole, rather than just understanding it in relation to technologies, we have developed an expanded conception of deep tech by defining it through the four key pillars of deep impact, deep thinking, deep talent and deep collaboration.

We have found this multi-dimensional view of deep tech helps leaders to search for solutions through forming transdisciplinary teams who have a mixture of scientific knowledge, artistic creativity and analytical skills. Having a suitable degree of diversity in technology and innovation is important to companies’ ability to stay competitive because a more balanced workforce can help them innovate more and achieve better business results. For this to happen though, leaders need to implement initiatives to make women feel more welcome and comfortable in the workplace and show that they are serious about solving these issues.

Women face many issues in deep tech, firstly when starting their career, and then progressing within their organisations. One of the key developments that can help young women the most are the next generation of deep tech platforms to improve the quality and accessibility of education for students and adults that at the same time also develop their self-esteem and confidence. The majority of my current projects in deep tech are exploring platform-based solutions not just for individual learning, but with the purpose of creating meaningful access for entire communities by preparing people to help them fully make use of technologies from which they have previously been excluded.

While the internet has democratised access to education and created new ways for women to demonstrate their talent, creativity and ability to think systemically, to close the gender gap in deep tech, organisations still need to rethink their recruitment policies and support women from diverse backgrounds, ensuring that they are fully able to flourish and make their best contributions to innovation projects.

Those women who have been able to develop careers in deep tech encounter many challenges relating to various biases by male colleagues. While women benefit from support and mentoring, even male colleagues in purpose-driven organisations may behave in a way which fails to acknowledge the value of their contributions and which therefore demotivates them, resulting in the organisation losing a valuable source of creativity and insight.

The opportunity for deep tech to revolutionise organisations and business ecosystems is immense, with new perspectives opening up new forms of value for customers and clients. To succeed, design practices, agile methods and elevated leadership within this new generation of amplified organisation which value diversity and inclusion themselves need to transform. HR departments therefore now have a leading strategic role to play in the design, communication and implementation within their organisations, given that our conception of Deep Tech shifts the emphasis from advanced technologies to a human-centric view of deep impact, deep thinking, deep talent and deep collaboration.

For this reason, our conception of deep tech is built on the underlying foundations of the five universal human values of peace, truth, love, righteousness and non-violence. These values are universal in that for millennia they have been seen across many different cultural traditions as the highest expression of humanity. As a senior advisor to CEOs and top teams, I have been teaching leaders how to introduce these values into their organisations and deep tech initiatives. The reason is that when the universal human values are present in an organisation, leaders are better able to help women fully participate by improving an organisations innovation capacity for creativity, adaptation, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.

Maria Moraes RobinsonAbout the author

Maria Moraes Robinson is the co-author of Deep Tech and the Amplified Organisation and the CEO (Brazil) of business consultancy Holonomics