Earlier this month, Talent Works released a new research paper Women in Technology: It’s Time to Make a Change research report addressing a fundamental question: why are so few women working in such a booming industry? The technology sector grew from $1.4bn to $14.1bn between 2010 and 2020, yet the number of female tech employees dropped from 26.1% in 2014 to 19% in 2022.
The research takes a deep dive into the inner workings of technology organizations with the end goal of attracting and retaining the top female talent in tech. Surveying 300 women in the UK and 400 women across the Eastern Seaboard of the US, the research polled the opinions of these women who had worked in technology or were still actively working in the sector. It looked specifically at whether toxic technology culture is affecting the number of women who seek jobs in the tech industry, and whether sexism is actively deterring women from the industry. Questions were also asked about the effectiveness of intervention in attracting women to technology work.
The findings are clear. Having gender-neutral language in job advertising has little to do with women not choosing the tech industry, and that rather, women are not applying for jobs in the technology sector due to toxicity within organizations. Furthermore, the identified figures show that, in the short term, company culture needs to change before more women will choose to go into the sector.
The research suggests that some progress has been made in attracting women to tech roles in the recent decade, identifying a few key factors such as safe working environments, and emotionally intelligent leaders as some of the top deciding factors in helping companies to attract female talent.
Lead the Charge from the Top
Encouraging women into the tech sector and startup ecosystem is critical. Diverse voices must be at the table when designing our digital future, otherwise, we risk creating a world that doesn’t work for everybody. Sadly, these results today show that culture remains the biggest barrier to Inclusion, and if anything, the pandemic has worsened the diversity gap. Against the context of the skills shortage, it’s time for organizations to actively create conditions for women and minority voices to thrive and differentiate through hiring strategies that support diversity and inclusion.
Actions are stronger than words in this instance, and leaders need to lead by considering some of the restrictions female employees may often have to deal with. For example, as a younger manager, I had a leader who would repeatedly schedule an impromptu leadership huddle after 5:30pm, when we had all been there since 8am. I was a working parent who had to leave to pick up children at daycare, and I didn’t have the benefit of a stay-at-home spouse.
In that working environment, it wasn’t acceptable to push back and ask if we could regroup in the morning. It was this type of toxicity that caused me to leave. As I had to walk out the door, there was an internal perception that I was missing out and not doing the work.
Consider the Application Process
The application process also has a considerable impact on whether women in technology apply for a role, with 66% of respondents being confident that they can spot a toxic work environment during the application process. 52% of women also feel that companies create gendered job adverts (for example, using masculine and feminine words).
Although there has been a focus on attracting women to tech roles, the working environments in many organizations are toxic and women aren’t confident that enough is being done to support them. It’s the responsibility of leadership and middle management to create healthy working environments that support women and encourage them to both apply and stay in tech roles. Without this, the industry is at risk of further reducing the number of women in tech.
Simply put, at a time of intense skills shortage in technology, companies are neglecting some of the best talent right in front of them, and the solution needs to be a cultural change and hiring more women to lead the charge from the top. Click here to download Women in Technology: It’s Time to Make a Change.
About the author: Jody Robie is the SVP of North America atTalent Works, a talent attraction firm focusing specifically on recruiting and employer branding. If you have questions about your current talent strategy feel free to reach outdirectly to her on LinkedIn.