Closing the Gender Gap with Women-in-Cloud

Gretchen O’Hara, Vice President, Go-To-Market Strategy, One Commercial Partner

Last week, I had the honor to speak at the Annual Ideagen Empowering Women & Girls 2030 Summit, hosted at the United Nations. The theme of the day was Closing the Gender Gap, based on the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Women & Girls. I talked about some of the unique challenges girls and women face, particularly at a time when industries are rapidly transforming to cloud. As a 20-year Microsoft veteran, this is a real passion of mine. But now that my daughter has embarked on her own STEM career, I have a greater sense of urgency around the issue.

Gretchen O’Hara & Jackie O’Hara

Technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives at an incredible speed. Innovation has led to advancements in human productivity that impact nearly everyone on the planet. The ability to connect to people and information instantly is so commonplace that many of us now take it for granted. And AI is already taking us to even greater heights. Much of this progress is due to the digital transformations that we, our partners, and our customers are making every day, all centered on cloud computing. But with the power to transform society also comes real responsibility. In the era of AI, we need to ensure our systems are safe and reliable, and that they reflect the diversity of the world in which we live. That means working even harder to close the gender gap, in which we still have a long way to go.

Let’s take a look at the stats:

  • Today, 57% of undergrad degrees are earned by women, yet women earn only 18% of all computer science degrees
  • 40% of all new businesses are women-owned, but only 5% of tech startups are owned by women
  • 20% of C-Suite leaders are women, but fewer than 3% are women of color
  • Less than 2% of women tech entrepreneurs access the cloud opportunity in tech, and only 1% of women tech entrepreneurs are awarded corporate contracts

Reaching gender parity in the tech industry starts with empowering our girls! In order to do that, we need to teach our daughters modern workforce skills and encourage them in STEM-based curriculum. At Microsoft, we’re focused on both building the talent pipeline through programs like DigiGirlz and Girls Who Code, as well as making Microsoft a great place for women to work and grow their careers.

We believe we cannot be competitive without women, because we can’t expect innovation or disruption in a market if we don’t have diverse perspectives driving our business strategy. This is one of Microsoft’s cultural tenets, and one that I believe in deeply. It stems from a core belief that every voice counts, and that diverse teams and ideas create stronger businesses. To build this diversity, it’s critical to have a diverse partner ecosystem and one that actively supports women entrepreneurs. This is an area I’m working to support, and one that Microsoft has been investing in through an organization I helped found, called Women-in-Cloud.

We believe we can bring $1 billion to our Women-in-Cloud through our accelerator program but the larger market opportunity is around $1.7 trillion. The objective of Women-in-Cloud is to provide access, acceleration, and action to help women entrepreneurs get after that opportunity! Women-in-Cloud began as a partnership between Microsoft and HPE to promote women entrepreneurship, but with support from organizations like IdeaGen and the United Nations, it’s growing to become a truly global movement that transcends organizational, cultural, and physical boundaries.

Jill Angelo, Jackie O’Hara, Gretchen O’Hara, Chaitra Vedullapalli

We have already made incredible progress in building a thriving network of women entrepreneurs and connecting them with our distribution channels, but there is so much more to do. We’re going to take what we’ve learned in Women-in-Cloud here in the US and scale it globally. Our goal is to mobilize public and private partnerships that encourage women entrepreneurship and support new communities of Women-in-Cloud around the world!

Ask yourself how we can make the Microsoft ecosystem more diverse and bridge the gender divide. Last year, I made a personal goal to mentor 100 women, and this year I’ve asked the US OCP leadership team to help me achieve that goal. I personally pledge to create access to cloud opportunities through my work at Microsoft with Women-in-Cloud and to taking this cause to broader groups who can extend and build on Microsoft’s & HPE’s work to help us make our vision for a global Women-in-Cloud movement a reality!

Watch my Ideagen PowerTalk presentation at the Annual Empowering Women & Girls 2030 Summit at the United Nations here.

To learn more about how to connect with Women-in-Cloud and join the conversation, visit our website or connect with me on Twitter @gretchenohara and LinkedIn.