As a society, we have made strides towards gender equality and have seen progress over the years. It’s easy to assume that the gender gap has improved in every industry. As a result, however, we’re seeing the gender equity problem in tech (industry). The percentage of women who currently have careers in the tech field has decreased since 1984 (35% compared to 32%). These statistics alone show that there is still a huge gender gap and the necessary steps to close the gap are still not recognized. So why is this phenomenon happening and how does it impact business performance and success?
Lack of Awareness From Leaders
A large factor that plays into this pattern is HR and leaders aren’t recognizing that there is such an issue and believe that their organization’s culture is better than it truly is. HR leaders are twice as likely (45%) to say that “it’s easy for women to thrive in tech” than women are (21%). In addition, leaders also don’t think that culture is a significant component in creating a healthy workplace. According to a research report done by Accenture and Girls Who Code, “just 38% identify building a more-inclusive culture as an effective means to retain and advance women in tech roles.” This means that 62% of HR leaders don’t believe that culture is a factor in closing the gender gap and supporting women in this industry. Of the 38% that believe it’s a factor, may not necessarily be taking the steps to make that change to create a healthy workplace culture.
Clearly, there is a disconnect between leaders and employees, which is a large part of the puzzle as to why this issue is getting worse and why we aren’t seeing change. For example, 68% of leaders feel like they are creating empowering environments where people have a sense of belonging. On the other hand, only 36% of employees agree. There needs to be a shift in how leaders see the culture of their organization otherwise nothing is going to change for the better.
The nature of the tech industry being dominated by men and the general lack of awareness amongst leaders about this problem brings gender discrimination in all aspects. In STEM jobs, 48% of women say that they have experienced discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process. From the very beginning, almost half of the women in tech experience discrimination, which sets a negative tone for not only that specific organization but for the whole industry itself. It creates this notion that women don’t belong in this industry, ruining their feeling of belonging and being accepted by their peers. Due to this, women are 22% more likely to experience imposter syndrome in the workplace. In addition, 50% of women said they experienced gender discrimination at work. Thirty-nine percent of women view gender bias as a primary reason for not being offered a promotion. From the recruiting process to promotion, it creates fear and an overall sense of feeling as though women aren’t accepted in the tech industry. This is most likely why 50% of women leave tech careers by the age of 35.
The numbers get even worse when looking at women of color and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LBT) women. “Just 3% of computing-related jobs are held by African-American women, 6% held by Asian women and 2% held by Hispanic women.” These statistics, however, are very dependent on workplace culture. 83% of LBT women who are in a more inclusive work environment say that they love their jobs compared to 35% who work in a non-inclusive workplace.
COVID has created another set of issues on top of everything else. Fifty-four percent of women say that the pandemic is making it harder for them to break into the tech industry. To make matters worse, women in the tech industry were twice as likely to be laid off as their male counterparts. It’s already such a hard field for women to get into in the first place, having this extra factor is creating a larger gender gap.
The Affect on Organizations’ Success
So you’ve seen the statistics, but how does this affect organizations’ success and the industry as a whole? If all companies scored high on inclusive culture measures, the annual attrition rate of women in tech would drop by 70%. As a result, we could potentially see 1.4 million more women working in this industry than if things were to continue on the same path. “Greater diversity is linked with driving innovation, reducing bias and raising tech company share prices.” Ultimately, diversity and gender equality help the creativity and long-term success of a company.
How Can We Change the Numbers
It’s clear that these numbers need to improve and there needs to be more diversity within the industry, but how can businesses do this? There needs to be a shift in the mindset of leaders and an improvement of workplace culture.
To start, change needs to take place at the beginning, during the recruitment and hiring process. Research shows that practicing methods such as using neutral language in job postings, doing blind interviews, having panels rather than one-on-one, etc., helps attract successful female candidates. In addition, these methods can help reduce discrimination.
One of the most significant steps that need to be taken is changing workplace culture. Leaders first need to recognize that there is a problem and that what they might believe is true about their company’s culture, may not be how many of their female employees feel. Secondly, they need to prioritize gender equality by defining and measuring goals that improve it. This is also where bias training can help. Leaders need to listen to the results and feedback that they are getting from employees and take action. The only way to find out is by understanding how employees are truly feeling about their organization’s culture.
Increasing more flexibility in working conditions can significantly help improve the retention of female employees, especially during a pandemic. This decreases the feeling of “burnout” amongst everyone and especially helps women succeed in this industry since they already feel as though they have to work extra to make it in this field. This will also allow the space for working mothers to take the time they need for their children and be at risk of hurting their careers.
In order to see this change, gender equality and respect need to be at the forefront of every company and organizations need to take action to create and implement this change. To continue the learning process, take a look at our unconscious bias refresher microlesson and read our blog post about creating a healthier workplace culture.