7 Surprising Trends You Didn’t Know About Representation of Women In Cloud and AI Industry

Chaitra Vedullapalli
10 min readJun 30, 2021

It was a beautiful sunny Seattle morning when I had this conversation. I was talking to one of the Women in Cloud community members, and they were curious about progress being made for women in technology, as Google searches on this topic only showcase a “doomsday” picture.

Our team at Women in Cloud conducted research to validate that observation. We found that the community member was 100% correct: the information found online about the state of women in technology was staggeringly negative. This pessimistic outlook on the future of women in technology can make conversations around building equitable solutions seem overwhelming and intimidating for everyone involved.

We took time to investigate and analyze the current trends around representation that are in favor and not in favor of women. Through this, we are formulating the Women in Cloud programs by inviting companies and individuals to become part of the collective community, taking action to advance the $1 billion in the economic access narrative.

By objectively examining what is favorable and unfavorable for women, we can also identify high level opportunities for change and focus on economic development through this collective action.

Here are the Top 7 Surprising Trends About the Representation of Women in Cloud and AI Industry:

  1. C-Suite and Executive Representation

Not in Favor: Though the number of women in executive-level roles has risen, growth has been painfully slow. The percentage of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies has climbed from zero in 1995 to only 4.8 percent in 2018. A McKinsey report states that just 1 in 8 start-up CEOs are women and the most highly compensated executive roles continue to be dominated by men.

In Favor: Fortune 500 companies with at least 3 female leaders saw a 66 percent increase in return on investments (Women Who Tech).

Collective Approach: Enterprises looking to diversify their leadership can use this data to focus their efforts on bringing in female representation into executive positions through community partnerships. After all, the numbers speak the truth. The inclusion of female leaders is great for business! To create greater access, Women In Cloud has architected our Signature Events to become a thought leadership platform and was recently recognized as one of the Top 10 industry events in tech. Our events provide access to an industry stage for an average of 1000+ women per year to represent their voice, become advisors, share their learnings and create access for others. We accelerate economic access for women by amplifying their voices and championing programs within their company and community. Accenture, a Women In Cloud partner, is actively working towards a gender-balanced workforce by having women fill 30 percent of all managing director positions by 2025. In partnership with M12, we’ve also launched the #empowHERaccess digital advocacy campaign to spotlight role models and leaders who are championing economic access for women.

2. Cloud & AI Technology Solution Innovation

Not in Favor: Innovation (as reflected in patents) is still male-dominated — Under 8% of all patents have women as primary inventors. Looking across the subset of commercialized patents, data suggests that only 5.5 percent of holders are women. This is a global problem; across the world, women accounted for about 10 percent of patent authorships weighted by the number of names on each patent. According to GEM 2019 Research, women are not innovating as much within tech as compared to wholesale, retail or other sectors.

GEM 2019 Research Report

In Favor: Over the past 20 years, a growing number of patents have a woman as a named inventor — rising from 13 percent in 1998 to 31 percent in 2017, according to a study from UKIPO. In the U.S, the growth rate of female patent holders between 2008–2017 is 18.2 percent, and that number is only increasing. (Scientific American)

Collective Approach: Just as research suggests that integrating women into corporate boards can lead to the inclusion of new consumers and innovations within the business realm, womens’ presence in developing technology solutions can lead to increased innovation, productivity, and benefits for female consumers of technology. The heightened focus on access to innovation platforms presents a chance for women inventors to take action and contribute to developing fresh, new ideas. Women In Cloud has curated many solutions such as AISolution2030, #CloudInnovateHER, Digital Academy, Innovation Grants and Design Workshops to help women innovate tech solutions. In partnership with Microsoft, Women In Cloud Entrepreneurs were strategically represented in the Buildfor2030 campaign supporting UN Goals 2030.

3. Global Accelerator and Venture Funding For Female Technology Founders

Not in Favor: Although total global venture funding increased by 4 percent year-over-year, funding to female-founded startups decreased by 27 percent. It’s no wonder that only 2 percent of women-owned\businesses ever make it to $1 million in revenue, which is 3.5 times less than their male counterparts (Crunchbase).

In Favor: Private technology companies led by women are more capital-efficient, achieving 35 percent higher ROI, and, when venture-backed, 12 percent higher revenue than startups run by men, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Women founded companies in First Round Capital’s portfolio outperformed companies founded by men by 63 percent.

Collective Approach: All the data indicates that, on average, women-owned start-ups have better return on investments. Investors have a huge market opportunity to fund these innovative ventures, and in turn, profit extensively. The math adds up! To help founders win enterprise opportunities, Women in Cloud has launched the WiC Microsoft Cloud Accelerator: an immersive 6-month program to assist women-led tech companies to co-build, co-market, and co-sell with Microsoft and their distribution channels. This program is designed to help you get access to Azure credits, an advisor community, the MS startup program and a global stage to showcase your business. Please check out WIC Solution Marketplace and Top 10 Most Successful Women In Cloud Entrepreneurs 2021.

4. Enterprise Supplier Spend and Diversity Allocation

Not in Favor: Today, only 3 percent of corporate procurement dollars and 5 percent of federal contracts are going to women-owned firms (Congressional Research Service).

In Favor: According to The Hackett Group, “companies that allocate 20 percent or more of their spend to diverse suppliers attribute 10–15 percent of their annual sales to supplier diversity programs. Conversely, companies that direct less than 20 percent of spend to diverse suppliers attribute under 5 percent of sales to their supplier diversity program.”

Collective Approach: As diverse businesses grow, the economy grows. This growth drastically improves economic recovery, job creation, and sustainability of communities. If men and women worked together to double their supplier diversity allocation — not spend, JUST allocate — we will generate $1 billion in revenue for women entrepreneurs. Women in Cloud recently rolled out the WiC Fortune 100 Initiative, a turn-key equity advancing solution for Fortune 100 companies to come together and collectively solve gender-equity challenges through representation, recruitment, and relationship building. Women In Cloud has partnered with Microsoft, Insight, Accenture, Hitachi, Teradata, Boeing and Global Affairs Canada as part of this initiative.

5. Increased Displacement of Women-held Jobs in Tech Industry

Not in Favor: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 2.2 million women were unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that 180 million women’s jobs will be eliminated over the next 20 years as a result of AI transformation. In fact, 2 million more women are expected to leave the workforce this year, adding to the 13 million in 2020.

In Favor: The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated a significant gap in technical skills among the general workforce, prompting many employers to fund digital upskilling programs for their employees. According to PwC’s Global Digital IQ survey, 86 percent of top-performing companies reported that digital training programs boosted employee engagement and performance.

Collective Approach: An increased investment into digital upskilling presents a unique opening for women who face displacement in their fields. The advancement of women in technology will be propelled by their adaptation to the evolving technical environment, and education to build competitive skills is the first step towards that goal. Women in Cloud has partnered with Microsoft and Coursera to make Azure Training and Certification Scholarships available towards advancing digital-skilling for women that enable them to secure economically fulfilling jobs in the current market.

6. Accelerating Females In AI Professional Careers

Not in Favor: Reports from the World Economic Forum state only 13.8 percent of women have authored artificial intelligence-related research papers, and less than a quarter of females are considered to be AI professionals compared to 78% who are male. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 85 percent of AI projects will deliver erroneous outcomes due to bias within algorithms, data analysis, and interpretations from the teams responsible for developing the solutions. As put by the MIT Sloan Review, if a company’s workforce is not diverse, the outputs of that organization will be substandard, as bias and oversight can creep in at any point in the development pipeline.

In Favor: By 2030, AI will lead to an estimated $15.7 trillion, or 26 percent increase, in global GDP, based on PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study. (To put this figure in context, it’s greater than both China and India’s current combined GDP.) Increased productivity will contribute to approximately 40 percent of this increase while consumption will drive 60 percent of GDP growth. In its “Future of Jobs Report 2020,” the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs will be displaced while 97 million new jobs will be created across 26 countries by 2025.

Collective Approach: With the increasing role that AI is playing in our daily lives and normal business processes, the need for inclusion in this field is becoming starkly visible. Bias within AI Algorithms is a huge structural issue, and a mechanism to combat it will need to be driven by policy, ethics and governance from government, investors and corporate board mandates. Women in Cloud has established the #AIEthics Coalition to research and identify strategic policies that address inequities in AI solution development before they are available for mass consumption.

7. Making Workforce Diverse and Inclusive

Not in favor: According to a report by Accenture partnered with Girls Who Code, the number of female computer science graduates has declined from a peak of 37% in 1984 to around 18% today. According to the WEF Future of Work Report, on average, companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling for six months or less and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65 percent in 2018. Hard numbers — such as the 99.5 years that it will take to close the global gender gap — draw attention to the scale of the problem.

In Favor: As an industry, the technology sector has been taking steps towards the advancement of women, who accounted for nearly 30 percent of the industry’s entry-level workforce in 2019. Last year, 13.2 percent of women were promoted, compared to 12.1 percent of men and the overall hiring rate of women increased to 27.3 percent. Representation plays a huge role in garnering more interest in the fields of cloud and AI. A 2018 Microsoft survey shows that female STEM role models boost the interest of girls in STEM careers from 32–52 percent.

Collective Approach: Diversity and inclusion is about more than just gender. Increased leadership representation in all the industries powered by Cloud & AI will lead to greater workforce representation overall. The flexibility of work-from-home options has allowed women to dedicate more time to their careers while still achieving work-life balance. This trend shift for the future of work can increase the presence of women in AI and work to bridge the gender divide in this space. Women In Cloud is closely working with Fortune Brands to advance leadership representation through programming, provide access to diverse candidates in the recruiting funnel and provide scholarships to increase the pipeline via the #CloudJobs Recruitment Initiative.

In the recent article foreword authored by Melinda French Gates, it is imperative that we as a collective need to act on gender equity and inclusion to make our economic relief and recovery efforts favorable for women. According to McKinsey, centering women in recovery efforts would grow global GDP by an estimated $13 trillion, or 16 percent, by 2030 — because when women thrive, so do their families and communities.

The favorable statistics demonstrate a marked opportunity for women to be a transformative force in cloud and AI. However, the systemic issues that affect female participation in technology create barriers to entry for many seeking access to these industries.

So, how do we address the issues presented within the unfavorable statistics in the tech industry? What is the plan of action to move towards more equitable changes for women in technology?

We at Women in Cloud, a community-led economic development organization are dedicated to recognizing the gaps within this broader global crisis by taking collective action to advance trends in the positive direction through community building, accelerators and policy recommendations. The roadmap we have designed is to take collective action with our community, and it starts right now.

We invite you to join the economic access movement by getting involved in one of 7 ways:

  1. Pledge: Sign the collective pledge and become an economic ignitor
  2. Endorse: WiC Solution Marketplace as a one-stop-shop for technology solutions and services for the mid-to-enterprise market, created, owned, and operated by women entrepreneurs.
  3. Sponsor in WiC Equity Building Solutions to achieve your mission as well as collective mission
  4. Attend WIC Signature events to learn, connect and unlock collective access for opportunities.
  5. Participate in building economic relief and recovery solution such as empowHERfamily
  6. Join WIC Digital Network
  7. Apply for an Entrepreneur pass to get access to special benefits to grow your company in the tech.

Together we rise. As a collective we can advance the outcomes we define.

About Chaitra Vedullapalli

Chaitra Vedullapalli is the Co-Founder and President of Women in Cloud, as well as the Co-Founder and CMO of Meylah, a Cloud Solutions Provider and Microsoft Gold Partner. An author, in-demand speaker, and change leader, she is helping to drive conversations about digital transformation and women in tech at the United Nations and among top corporations.

TEDxTalk: Economic access for women — digital transformation age

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Chaitra Vedullapalli

Co-Founder of Meylah and Women in Cloud. I influence brands and entrepreneurs to unlock economic access through digital strategy and partnerships.