A gender diverse workforce that boasts a female leader at its helm has a distinct competitive advantage in the industry, experts observed on International Women’s Day.

They shared how seeing a woman in a leadership role inspires young women to apply for roles in a company, and that this is especially true if the company is in an industry that is considered to be male-dominated.

Hildegard Wortmann, member of the Board of Management for Sales and Marketing at Audi, noted that many industries are evolving due to the availability of new technology, which is creating new roles that women can actively pursue. She agreed that the automotive industry is “not the most diverse industry” and that there is “still a ways to go for us”.

“It is up to us to put this topic on the table and draw focus to it in order to empower ourselves,” she said. “Gender diversity is only one form of inclusion, and we have set out a real programme where we are now empowering young women to come into the jobs in the industry. I think that it is also important not to have diversity as a quota at the end of the day, but as an attitude and mindset. Now is such a perfect time for bright young females to come into our industry because now the whole auto industry is changing away from metal sheet bending to a world of high tech, software driven, customer-centric organisations and there are fantastic new job profiles that are perfect for young bright talent.”

Wortmann, who has been in the industry for over 20 years, is hesitant to call herself a role model, but says that she has no objections in talking about her career progression to inspire young women to pursue careers in the automative industry. “If I can contribute in showing them that this world is exciting; if I can contribute to giving them confidence in their skills, and show them that there is an opportunity and for them, then I am more than happy to do that. Its about empowerment and giving them a platform and exposure.”

Speaking about the #BreakTheBias theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, Shehzeen Jamil R, head of COFEstore at COFE App, and co-founder at SIPPY, said that women are generally subject to a stricter set of standards than men in the founder/startup space. “The goal should not be to just have more women present in order to promote change, but, rather have changed mentalities in place that understand and accept women equally. If women could have more time allocated towards their actual work, rather than ‘proving their worth’ and fighting bias, we’d all be in a very different world.”

Leandra Meintjes, head of marketing at Proven, said that the occasion called for everyone to salute all the women who do things a little differently. “Women offer a different perspective and thought process than our male counterparts, which is not necessarily better than the other. However, it is proven by recent research that having more women in the workplace results in a positive environment for all. As female leaders, we are more likely to utilise empathy to influence people and develop trust, resulting in more productive and effective teams. It goes as far as positively influencing stock prices, profitability, and board diversity, as highlighted in organizations led by female C-level executives.”

Azza Al Marzouqi, HR lead at HPE, also offered her insight on the role that technology has played in transforming the workforce. “I believe the future of technology should be inclusive of every gender and ethnicity. The world of technology requires tremendous efforts from all tech giants to achieve equality. Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between revenue, company’s morale, and positive brand reputation in a more inclusive and diverse workplace. According to a report by McKinsey, if women’s equality is advanced, it could add approximately $12 trillion to GDP by 2025. Today, we celebrate women’s achievements and milestones and draw inspiration from those trailblazing women who have driven innovation, challenged her status quo and started movements.”

“As an IT professional, a business leader and design thinker, I know that solutions come from challenging assumptions and thinking innovatively,” said Simran Bagga, head of Engineering at Omnix. “Our society is now encouraging more girls with role models, teaching skills everyone needs, and showing them how tech careers improve the world.”