For many decades, the Information Technology (IT) industry has been majority men, with women fighting against the odds to break into this field. In recent years, more and more women have joined the IT industry, paving the way for others.
In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the importance of women in tech, including:
- Statistics about women in IT
- The benefits of female leadership in tech
- Challenges women still face in IT
- Strategies to help women advance in tech
And if you’re a woman looking for your next role in IT, check out the Insight Global job board!
Women in Tech by the Numbers
Women currently make up about 47 percent of the labor force in the United States. However, participation of women in the IT industry is considerably lower.
There are two ways to look at participation in the tech industry, so we’ll distinguish between them when sharing data about women in tech. One is to look at women who work for tech companies. The other is to look at women who have IT roles.
For example, a woman who works in human resources (HR) for a computer company works for a tech company, but not in a technical role. A female cybersecurity expert who works for a law firm has an IT role, but she doesn’t work for a tech company.
Now that we understand the different types of data, let’s look at some statistics regarding women in tech.
- Women make up between 29 percent and 45 percent of the total workforce at America’s five largest tech companies (based on self-reported data).
- Women make up between 23 percent and 24 percent of IT roles in America’s five largest tech companies.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 26.7 percent of the workforce in “Computer and mathematical occupations”.
- 50 percent of women who take a tech role drop it by the age of 35, compared to about 20 percent in other types of jobs.
While these statistics may seem discouraging, there’s good news! Plenty of research has identified what needs to change in the workplace to encourage more women to join and remain within the IT industry.
But first, why does this even matter?
The Benefits of Female Leadership in IT
Why is it important to encourage women to work at tech companies? What’s the benefit of promoting women in IT?
We have an entire article that breaks down the business benefits of diversity in the workplace. Here are a few quick stats on gender:
- “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
- Multiple studies indicate that gender equality in the workplace improves employee retention and recruitment of new employees.
- Women leaders are twice as likely as their male counterparts to do work that supports employee well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. While this improves employee retention and engagement, “40 percent of women leaders say their DEI work isn’t acknowledged at all in performance reviews.”
Let me share a few real-world examples of what can happen when IT companies (including some of the world’s largest) create innovative new products without consulting women.
When Tech Companies Ignore Women
In 2014, a major tech company proudly announced a lineup of new products with new features, including an exciting new health app, one designed to allow users to track every metric related to health…
Except for menstruation.
In the same year, that same company released its first diversity report, revealing that 70 percent of their employees were male. Multiple tech and pop culture journalists criticized this company heavily, pointing out that their lack of gender diversity led them to create a health app that didn’t include a basic function for half the world’s population.
In 2023, tech companies continue to err when they don’t listen to women. A popular wearable tech brand does include a period tracker in its health app, which also predicts ovulation. However, despite years’ worth of customer requests, neither the basic app nor the premium version allows users to track a pregnancy.
Between the data and these examples, it’s easy to understand why IT companies should work to improve both recruitment and retention of women. To do that, we need to understand the barriers women face in tech.
What Challenges Do Women Face in IT?
Women in tech face many challenges which prevent them from pursuing an IT career or contribute to them leaving the IT field. While each woman has her own story, here are a few trends backed by data.
The Second Shift
Women in tech face many challenges, not just those related to their work. One of the most significant is the burden of domestic responsibilities that still falls disproportionately on women.
For example, the TrustRadius 2021 Women in Tech Report asked survey respondents about changes due to COVID-19. They found that 29 percent of women had taken on a greater childcare burden, compared to 19 percent of men. The same report found that 42 percent of women in tech took on more household work than their partners. In comparison, only 11 percent of men in tech took on more household work than their partners.
In October 2020, Pew Research conducted a similar study of cohabitating adults in American households. Men and women reported different perceptions of household labor.
- 55 percent of men said they were “very satisfied” with the way household chores were divided. However, only 38 percent of women said the same.
- In male-female relationships, 59 percent of women said they did more chores than their partner. Only 6 percent said their partner did more. 34 percent said they divided housework equally.
- In male-female relationships, only 20 percent of men said they did more chores than their partner, while 34 percent of men said their partner did more. 46 percent said they divided housework equally.
Many tech companies have a workaholic culture, with unrealistic expectations for employees, especially working parents. When working mothers are more likely to shoulder the burden of household chores and childcare, they can end up pushed out of IT jobs.
Lack of Role Models
Despite the progress made in recent years, there is still a lack of female role models in IT. Women are severely underrepresented in leadership roles, and this lack of visibility can make it harder for others to see themselves in the industry.
A study by New View Strategies asked women in tech about their biggest challenges. The two most popular responses were:
- Lack of opportunities for advancement (52 percent)
- Lack of female role models (48 percent)
These challenges are related. When qualified women can’t advance in IT, their absence contributes to a lack of role models for junior employees. Without role models—especially mentors—some women are less likely to pursue promotions.
The lack of opportunities for advancement starts early. According to McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace 2022,” the “broken rung” continues to be an issue. “For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted.”
Gender Bias in the Workplace
Women in tech continue to report experiencing gender bias.
- The TrustRadius report found that 78 percent of women feel like they need to work harder than their coworkers to prove their worth.
- The same study found that 39 percent of women see gender bias as a barrier to promotion.
- A Dice study of employees in technical roles found that 59 percent of women “believe gender inequality occurs in the tech industry on a frequent or very frequent basis.”
- The Kapor Center did a study in 2017 to find out why people left technical roles. They found that 32 percent of women left due to an unfair work environment.
Gender bias can prevent women from entering the tech industry in the first place. It can also contribute to women leaving the tech industry.
Strategies to Help Women Advance in IT
I promise it’s not all bad news! By understanding the current data about women in tech, we can work to improve the situation—with more data. Research is pretty clear on what companies need to do to recruit and retain more women in tech.
Assess Current DEI Initiatives
To create a workforce that is truly representative of our society, companies need to assess their current DEI initiatives. By examining what resources their organization has in place to support underrepresented groups such as women in tech, employers can determine where improvements need to be made.
Only 39 percent of female technologists said they’re extremely or moderately impressed by their company’s current DEI initiatives, indicating that most companies have room to improve. The same study proved that DEI matters to women in tech, with 62 percent saying an employer’s DEI reputation is extremely or moderately influential in their decision to work there.
Accenture found that an inclusive culture, in both higher education and workplaces, leads to more gender equity in the IT industry. An inclusive workplace benefits everyone.
Create a Formal Mentorship Program
Mentorship programs are an essential part of fostering success within the tech industry, particularly for women. A mentorship program can provide women with the guidance, support, and advice they need to succeed in a male-dominated field. A formal mentorship program provides structure and consistency, helps to create strong working relationships between mentor and mentee, and encourages open dialogue about career goals.
40 percent of women in tech said that a lack of mentorship was a major challenge. 72 percent of women said companies should better support women in tech by providing mentorship opportunities.
By creating a mentorship program in the workplace, women will have an easier time connecting with mentors.
Offer Skills Training
Offering on-the-job skills training to employees can be an effective way to help them gain the necessary knowledge and experience for success in the tech industry. Upskilling or reskilling your employees improves employee retention while helping your company address any skills gaps.
Skills training should be offered during normal business hours. While training opportunities shouldn’t be limited to women, this will still help women in IT grow and learn, especially if they’re unable to pursue training opportunities outside of work hours.
Some companies have started offering “returnships,” career reentry programs typically designed for workers who have been out of the workforce for a year or more. While this is another gender-neutral opportunity to recruit and train potential employees, it can especially benefit women who are statistically more likely to take extended leave for caregiving responsibilities.
Diversify Your IT Team with Insight Global
Companies have so many opportunities to improve the situation for women in tech—not to mention financial incentives to do so.
Whether you need help recruiting more women or implementing DEI initiatives to retain more women, Insight Global can help. We offer Diversity Recruiting and Hiring Services as well as DEI Training services.
Contact Insight Global today to see what we can do for you.
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