Gender Gap in Tech? "Not my problem."
Every person in the world should be concerned about the gender gap present within technology. It is an issue that will have a large and lasting impact on us all, regardless of gender or background.
Shockingly, in the tech industry, less than one-fifth of employees are women despite comprising over half of America's labor force.
👉🏼 Gender Gap in Tech has a severe impact on the global economy, businesses, women and their households - thus creating a "domino effect" for everyone in our world.
After hosting hundreds of events in the tech industry, such as the Women in Tech Global Conference and the Women in Tech Global Awards, we’ve experienced firsthand the impact of women in tech. Most importantly, we’ve seen extraordinary women being often deterred from entering the tech industry or leaving it prematurely due to its lack of gender diversity.
Gender Disparity in Tech is Our Problem
Technology is used also by women. Technology permeates all aspects of our lives, so it is essential that everyone can use it. To create the most effective and user-friendly technology, diversity in thought, perspective and skills must be cultivated; a variety of genders will bring different strengths to the table which cannot otherwise be taken advantage of without female representation. We should recognize this essential truth - if women are not represented then their intrinsic qualities remain untapped resources for society at large.
Women are more adept leaders than men. Zenger Folkman, a strengths-based leadership firm, discovered that women had an impressive 52.1% score when it came to their effectiveness in technology as compared to the 42.0% achieved by men. Notably, of all industries studied by ZF, tech held the largest difference in scores between genders - proving just how capable women are at leading within this sector.
The tech industry offers lucrative professional positions. As the job market increasingly calls for technological expertise, women who lack interest or qualifications in this field reduce their chances of securing high-paying positions.
Self-imposed barrier. Sadly, the gender gap in tech is so prominent that it induces many women to avoid the industry out of fear of being "the only one." Additionally, employers have an unconscious bias which leads them not to hire female candidates and thus perpetuates this divide.
Higher business results for companies which are DEI-friendly. According to a McKinsey report, businesses that placed in the highest fourth of gender diversity among their executive team were revealed to be 21% more likely to have higher than average profits.
In this guide, we’re going to dive into (almost) everything that goes into gender inequality in tech:
first - the reasons, then the inevitable impact and enduring effect, and – most importantly – the solutions. Upon completing this journey, you will be equipped with tangible steps that can aid in resolving this unfortunate circumstance - regardless of what role you assume.
Current State of Women in Technology - Review
The Tech Landscape for Women in 4 Numbers
The World Bank's report reveals that women are drastically underrepresented in the global workforce of technology-related fields, accounting for less than a third of total workers.
🌐 Women hold globally 28% of all jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, and 15.9% of jobs in engineering and architecture occupations.
👉🏼 Despite comprising half of the US population, women occupy only 28% of all employment opportunities in computer sciences and mathematics.
👉🏼 In the European Union, women make up only 17 % of the ICT (information and communication technology) sector.
Fast-forward to 2022, and the proportion of female employees at Google has risen slightly to 33.9%.
See more Women in Tech Statistics.
Women in STEM
Gaps in STEM Education: The Root Cause?
The U.S. is home to a workforce of 23% working in the STEM field, which includes people from all educational backgrounds and more men, Whites, Asians and foreign-born individuals than are generally found in the overall population.
The gender disparity in STEM is of particular concern when examined through the lens of academic majors. Women represent only 16% among those who earned computer and information sciences Bachelor's degrees, 21% for Engineering and Engineering Technology graduates, 27% with Economics backgrounds, and 38%, Physical Sciences degree holders respectively.
👉🏼 The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics records an extraordinary 79% upsurge in STEM occupations over the last 30 years, with predictions that this number will rise by 11%, from 2020-2030.
Despite having the same opportunities, women's enrollment in STEM courses continues to decline and there are only 18% of new computer science degrees granted. This number is even lower for Black or Hispanic students as they make up a mere 6.3%. Thus, this limits their ability to join tech industry workforce opportunities.
Our educational system should shift its emphasis to the younger female demographic. In order for society to make progress, we must comprehend why young women are less inclined towards computer science and then take proactive measures so that they can pursue different career paths at an age when encouragement is pertinent.
Could it be a lack of enthusiasm or perceived capability that is influencing so few women from entering computer science? What part do peer pressure, conscious and unconscious, have in this equation? Are there any negative connotations associated with being one of the only girls in the class? Does their absence among faculty members play a role as well, sending an underlying message to female students about what they can expect should they pursue this field of study? Maybe society's expectations are also having an effect on potential female scientists' decisions?
The Retention Problem
Despite the fact that more women are graduating with degrees in STEM subjects than ever before, female retention rates within this field remain alarmingly low. According to NCSES research, just 38% of women majoring in computer science go on to work in the sector compared to 53% of men, and only 24% of those who have an engineering degree choose a career path related to their qualifications versus 30 % for males.
Workplace Culture Issues: Flexibility, Lack of Representation, Pay Gaps, Leadership Positions
Women executives heavily value flexibility when deciding to stay with or join a business, with 49% citing it as one of the top three factors. Men leaders are slightly less likely to prioritize this aspect - about 34%. In comparison to male counterparts, women executives are 1.5 times more inclined to switch jobs in order to have an environment that is focused on diversity and inclusion (DE&I).
Remote and hybrid work models may offer a temporary pause on gender bias, but they are far from providing the necessary long-term solution. Whilst women are seeing fewer microaggressions in virtual settings, this should not be seen as an excuse to rejoice; depending solely upon remote or hybrid solutions will prove insufficient for lasting change.
Despite some advanced strides forward in the past decade, gender discrepancy - particularly for women of color—persists throughout corporate America. This inequality is especially striking within senior leadership; a mere 25% are female and only 5% are minority females. Evidently, this "broken rung" continues to be an obstacle hindering many businesses from achieving gender parity in their organizations.
A recent US research study exposed a gender wage gap of 1.6%. Interestingly, while women earned less than men when working remotely, they were content making $0.95 for every dollar requested by their male co-workers in terms of wages. The same research unveiled that racial injustice is a major cause of the earnings gap between minority female workers and white men, with Hispanic women and African-Americans only making $0.91 for each dollar earned by their white male counterparts. According to the World Economic Forum's 2021 study, it will take an astonishingly long 268 years for us to eradicate the financial gender gap.
When it comes to senior leadership, women face an overwhelming impediment - their initial step up from entry level. The numbers are staggering; while 100 men were promoted to managerial positions in a given period of time, only 87 and 82 women and women of color respectively got the same promotion. This deprives female candidates of ample opportunities for higher-level roles down the line, leaving them with little chance at ever attaining equality when it comes to representation within these areas. It has been established that if young women are provided with visible examples of successful professionals who have attained an ideal work-life balance, over two-thirds will be encouraged to develop their careers. This will allow them to set achievable goals and achieve success in the competitive business world.
Empowering Women to Rise in Tech
To make a significant shift towards gender parity in the tech industry, we must come together and encourage incremental adjustments from many different members of our society.
Here are six essential transformations that need to happen if we are hoping for an increase in female representation within technology:
Solution # 1: Encourage More Women to Take on Computer Science Degrees & Courses
Girls' inequality in STEM is derived from a combined and compound set of factors that are deeply rooted within the socialization and learning processes. These include societal, cultural, and gender standards which play an important role in how girls and boys are brought up, taught, as well as interact with family members, friends, educators or any other part of their environment. These forces shape their character development while molding opinions they have on themselves along with essential decisions made throughout life. (inspired by the UNESCO report)
To foster a passion for technology in young girls, here are six strategies that schools can employ:
Introduce computer programming instruction in elementary school
Integrate technology into the middle school curriculum
Emphasize women in tech during Career Days, Parent's Meetings etc.
Equip teachers with the resources and teachings to recognize their unconscious biases against girls in regards to mathematics and technology
Vouch for a tech/computer club for girls
Invite inspiring women in tech to share about their journeys
Efforts to motivate girls to enter the tech world are not restricted solely to the classroom. Even a single positive or negative statement from a family member or somebody else could result in pursuit or rejection of STEM, respectively.
Here is how to actively instill interest in girls who are keen on technology:
If you work in a tech company, discuss offering scholarships to support girls attending workshops or seminars
Talk about female friends and family in the tech field to normalize the topic
Necessarily bring up technology when asking about their future occupations
When discussing their educational ideas or plans, ask them whether they are engaging in any computer science or technology-related classes
Solution # 2: Guarantee Women Are Promoted Equally and Justly as Men
In order to bridge the gender divide in tech, it is essential to decrease the disproportional female attrition rate. The National Council for Women in Technology confirms that women abandon their jobs within this sector at 41% compared with men who only do so 17%. To begin resolving this dilemma, we should first start by examining promotions and pay equity issues.
Women should be evaluated solely on their merits, not gender.
This is beneficial for everyone– from the men and women vying for positions to the teams they eventually join, as well as the company itself. It's only fair that individuals are assessed based on ability rather than on biological parameters.
Despite the fact that there are numerous good-paying middle management roles accessible to women, Leanin.org's investigation – which includes technology firms – has uncovered an unsettling statistic: men possess 62% of managerial posts while female employees only have 38%.
The solutions to this problem don’t require groundbreaking ideas; rather, they involve the simple adherence to best practices. Ultimately, it boils down to boosting transparency, providing adequate training and fostering clear communication between parties during the process. What's more? It is important that we remember how beneficial these changes are not just for women but everyone in tech! To create a lasting change in the promotion tactics of the tech sector here are some key ways forward:
Transparent about career paths: Everyone within the organization should have access to such information, which should be clearly outlined and include everything employees need to know about attaining higher positions. The qualifications required must also be stated plainly so that everyone is aware of their potential career trajectory.
Support employees reach their aims: Help each of your employees develop a tailored career trajectory based on their capabilities and aspirations. Work with them to revise and refine the path routinely in meetings with their supervisor.
Set up a mentoring program for women in tech: Mentors should receive training to support their mentees in achieving their professional dreams.
Provide leadership training to top-performing employees to bridge skills gaps: Instead of relying on nominations or women actively signing up, ensure managers reach out to every employee individually and pique their interest in participating. Many women often wait for an invitation when it comes to leadership training opportunities, so make sure that everyone has the chance! Moreover, hold managers accountable for training and promotion rates based on gender - this will help promote a more equitable environment amongst your team.
Solution #3: Transform your Recruiting & Hiring Process to Attract in and Retain female talent
According to the Harvard Business Review survey 61% of women indicated that they prioritize quality health, vision and dental insurance coverage when searching for a job. The rest of the top five considerations for women in this particular study entailed flexibility – working from home (55%), more flexible hours (47%), unlimited vacation (47%), and increased vacation time (40%). Although men's top five priorities were the same, working from home was not as important to them. Only 40% listed it as a factor in their decision.
Below are three tactics to use benefits to empower women in tech throughout the application process:
Involve more women in the interview process: It is important to be able to voice questions related to flexibility and work-life balance also with another female. Such an approach makes the interview process much more inclusive.
Embrace flexibility options and work-life balance: Women (and men) usually search for a business's benefits during the recruitment process and might be hesitant to ask this inquiry in an interview. Thus, it is essential to ensure that your website prominently displays this information.
Showcase talented women in tech roles on your Careers page. In addition, it is highly recommended that women employees be able to share their personal perspectives on how the business's work-life balance solutions can help them succeed.
Job ads for 'Ninjas'?
Harvard Business School noticed that the terms "ninja" and "dominate" have become incredibly trendy in recent years, yet they concluded (rightly so) that these words typically do not interest or appeal to women. In addition, the HBS found that the list of qualifications in the job ad can have a significant impact on who applies. Men often have an opportunistic attitude when it comes to jobs; they will apply even if they barely meet the job requirements. On the other hand, women tend to be more meticulous in their approach, only applying for roles if they match all of the qualifications and skills listed.
Here are three ways to come up with job ads that will encourage women applicants:
Create inclusive job descriptions: Incorporating members of both genders onto your committee will aid in avoiding any gender-biased language. Moreover, strive to include reviewers who have diverse cultural and age backgrounds for a more comprehensive analysis.
Cut down qualifications to the essential ones: When you keep your list more concise and specific, women are much more likely to feel they can meet the requirements and apply.
Highlight benefits appealing to women: It's vital to highlight the advantages that are especially relevant to women, such as flexibility and healthcare. Additionally, job descriptions should showcase a company’s commitment to opportunities for professional growth. Emphasizing these benefits will help enforce your organization’s dedication towards inclusivity and creating an equitable work environment.
Are Interview Questions Contributing to the Gender Divide?
After reviewing the Stanford University study, we were astonished by one of the findings: 75% of female tech leaders surveyed had been asked about their marital status, children, or family life during a job interview. Despite women from the community sharing experience with similar questioning, we held onto hope that this would not be commonplace for women in technology. Fortunately, by modifying your recruitment process you can start to bridge the gap between genders and close out unjust discrimination from entering into workplace conversations.
Interviews are often overlooked in the stories, news segments, and surveys on women in tech representation. However, improving the interview process is a critical step toward increasing female participation within technology-related roles. Below are a couple of ways companies can help:
Make sure a woman is part of every interview process
This is especially important when it comes to female job candidates. This will help ensure a broader evaluation of interviewees, as well as contribute to the development of a more diverse company culture.
Provide interview training
All managers, as well as any other employees involved in the interview process, should receive comprehensive training on how to ask effective questions and make key points regarding job openings. This will help them evaluate potential candidates more efficiently.
Offer female candidates a less formal chance to shine
A casual lunch or coffee break in the company's cafeteria can serve as an effective ice-breaker between female candidates and those already employed in technical roles, inspiring a more honest exchange of ideas that may eventually lead to her accepting your job offer.
Perform blind skills evaluation
Instead of having candidates present or solve code problems in front of a group, why not have the panel assess their work without knowing any personal information? This will help reduce potential unconscious and conscious biases.
Solution #4: Equal Work = Equal Pay
What Causes the Pay Gap in Tech?
A variety of elements accumulate to form the lower wages that women in tech receive - and these same causes are applicable throughout most fields, not just within technology.
Women shy away from negotiation According to Glassdoor, women are less likely than men to negotiate their salaries; 68% of women accept the proposed rate compared to only 52% of males.
Women are paid less We cannot ignore the fact that wage discrimination still occurs in today's society - this is both illegal and unacceptable. Fortunately, women are now earning only 3% less than men, a decrease from 4% last year. Nonetheless, Hispanic women were offered 91 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts performing the same job while Black women received an even lower of 89 cents per dollar! It's time to put an end to pay inequality once and for all.
Women get held back from receiving raises A Harvard Business Review study found that women who asked for a raise were only granted an increase in pay 15% of the time, compared to 20% of men's requests.
Tactics to bridge the pay gap
Tiny modifications make a difference. As supporters of women in tech, it is our obligation to modify the practices that perpetuate this gap and we can begin by taking the following steps:
Be forthcoming about compensation
Businesses may establish pay grades connected to certain job roles. Yes, there will be some degree of discretion (especially in terms of raises), but such an approach can very well eliminate many other issues.
Proactive salary negotiation
It's essential to remember that most employers start with a low number, anticipating negotiation. Asking for more won't offend anyone or make you look bad in any way; if anything, it shows your dedication and ambition.
Everyone should advocate equal pay and support in building negotiation skills
All the important people in our lives, be it men, other women, colleagues, teachers, or family members - remind them that negotiating is a skill we should all possess and practice. Offer to help hone their skills by practicing with them!
Women must research salaries
Women should remain informed and know the typical earning range of their position and company. There is no excuse not to be equipped with this knowledge, as there are websites such as Payscale and Glassdoor that provide access to salary information. Rather than accepting what's given, women need to take charge by being aware of these figures before participating in job negotiations.
Part with silence
Despite the fact that discussing salaries is considered taboo, one should be able to take advantage of social situations. For instance, through some casual talk during happy hour with coworkers, one can find out whether they are being paid more for similar roles. Why not go straight up to management and ask for a raise?
Ask employers to disclose pay gaps
Here is an idea: Employers should be compelled to provide data with regard to wage disparities, and the federal government should take measures against those employers found responsible for any discrepancies.
Solution #5: Create Equitable Maternity Policies So Women Feel Secure Taking Time Off
Although maternity leave is not unique to the tech industry, because women make up only one in five of its employees on average, their absences become significantly more noticeable. As a result, taking extended maternity leaves can pose an obstacle to career advancement that would be less likely in other industries with higher percentages of female workers.
The Usual Maternity Leave Issues Women in Tech Face
While maternity leaves are often satisfactory for women in tech, yet in many cases, experiences remain rather disappointing and could potentially steer women away from undertaking a career in the industry.
Sadly, some below are some common scenarios experienced by women:
Lack of established procedures Oftentimes female colleagues will announce pregnancy and naturally take time off. Contrarily, when other male employees become fathers, they only take a few days off and are back at their physical or virtual desks on Monday morning without fail.
Without a framework, an established rulebook, and an overall lack of knowledge - it appears more like the mother chooses to take a prolonged sabbatical. This isn't the case in many corporations nowadays, particularly larger ones. Although that still happens often today – far more than you may realize.
Loss of projects or jobs Afloat are countless heartbreaking stories of women who have lost their jobs while on maternity leave, and even more accounts of competent female employees being taken off high-profile projects upon returning from this time. The most concerning scenario is being replaced by an unqualified male colleague. It's unacceptable that we are still dealing with these issues in the modern workplace.
Pressure to reduce their leave It is shockingly common to be called back some weeks earlier than planned due to your manager's request or a new project release. An overwhelming amount of women in tech, 83%, faced pressure to return back to work before their maternity leave was complete. Even more concerning than that is the fact that 34% reported this stress coming from their managers or colleagues. Furthermore, an alarming number – almost one-third - were afraid they would lose their job due to taking a leave for childbirth.
Negative experience as a new mom back at work Transiting from stay-at-home parent to working mom or dad can be an incredibly tense time for many new parents. Furthermore, 1 in 4 women shared that their experience as a mother returning to the tech industry was difficult and exhausting.
Here are some suggestions to better the maternity leave policies and experience for female tech professionals:
Create an equitable leave policy for all new parents
Yes! Regardless of gender! Taking Etsy as an example, offering a generous 26 weeks off to both mothers and fathers.
Encouraging a parental leave-friendly environment
Offering paternity leave is a great perk, but it won't achieve its full potential if men do not feel comfortable taking the time off. To really maximize the benefit of paternity leave for your organization and employees, you should encourage all workers to take parental leave so that they can be with their newborn without feeling like this will limit their career opportunities.
Prеpare private lactation rooms
Nursing moms need the convenience of being able to pump breast milk when they return to work, and it is essential for them to feel accepted in their roles as mothers. Kudos to companies that provide designated areas where nursing can take place with privacy! Everyone else needs to get up-to-date on this necessity immediately.
Invest in mentoring programs for women returning to work
In these new & challenging times, it is essential for women to find solace in the knowledge that someone who has experienced similar hardships can help guide and support them. Receiving first-hand advice from individuals going through a comparable journey will not only provide comfort but also encourage them to stay strong during those difficult moments.
Allow for a phased return
Harvard Business Review recommends ensuring new mothers can gradually return to full-time employment and workload. A well thought-out transition period can immensely facilitate not only task management but also the positive experience of returning women.
Solution # 6: Switch the perception of Women in Tech
Lasting transformation begins with meaningful conversations in which individuals feel heard and respected. It's no surprise that the tech industry is male-dominated, so take it upon yourself to initiate a candid discussion with your coworkers about their ideas and worries on this subject matter. By promoting open communication amongst colleagues, you will be able to foster an environment of inclusion where everyone feels welcome.
To create gender-inclusive social events and outings
Why not plan activities that are of interest to all? Exchange golf for bowling or else as the end of project reward day. Likewise, when celebrating a major milestone in your department, select an appropriate venue where everyone will feel comfortable and welcome. Even better yet: involve women from the team in planning these occasions!
Educate managers on the importance of inclusivity and sensitivity
All managers can attend training sessions that raise their understanding of gender issues as well as how they can foster an environment where everyone is welcome. Furthermore, departments can collaborate with one another to exchange strategies and tips for creating a more inclusive workplace.
Support women to speak up
When women become comfortable enough to voice their opinions and stand up for themselves, progress will follow. It may be as small as declining a request or suggesting an alternate location for the team outing. But it could also extend further such as speaking up in cases of discrimination or harassment. By doing so, we open ourselves to positive change both on our part and others'.