Many tech leaders are now mindful of age-old problems such as the tech gender gap and the lack of women in tech
Right from an early age, the perception of ‘the tech gender gap’ as an industry has been subject to gendered biases. Figures from the campaign suggest that only approx. 9% of female graduates studied a core STEM subject in 2018. A recent survey study also indicates only 3% of women say a career in technology is their first-choice career.
Awareness and investment in the early part of the tech gender gap pipeline should be a priority to encourage women to consider tech as a viable career option. More should be done to look at encouraging STEM at the secondary school level, either through including coding courses within the core curriculum or extensive career advice that explores the diversity of roles within the tech industry. This can also be achieved through academic partnerships and more interaction from tech firms in the education sector.
This exposure could be a crucial stepping stone in dismantling old assumptions that tech isn’t a career for girls. It can also help build the narrative that a tech is a viable option when looking at industries that can help change the world for the better.
Here are seven key opportunities and challenges we can take to close the tech gender gap:
Start girls early:
Competence is not a function of gender but rather of belief, passion, and effort. Starting in kindergarten, we should intentionally provide girls with concrete opportunities to discover their natural wonder around technology.
Recruit in new places:
A standard tactic for recruitment involves seeking graduates from a traditional set of colleges and universities with as much prestige as your workplace can demand. This can be a dated practice that won’t necessarily fill all the open tech gender gap opportunities. Companies should cast a wider recruiting net and update their hiring approaches and criteria.
For example, a college degree shouldn’t always be a requirement; military service or another salient career experience can be an excellent substitute. One household-name tech company is looking even further into non-traditional sources, turning formerly incarcerated women (and men) into full-time paid software engineers.
One rich vein of talent lies in women who hope to return to suspended technology careers—or start new ones—having left the workforce for reasons related to childcare, unsupportive working environments, or the pandemic. Often, these would-be returners don’t know where to start their re-entry.
Although there’s no marked path for this, a growing number of tech companies are pursuing talent through “return-ship” programs that offer pay, a skills refresh, and an inside track on getting rehired.
Retention through inclusion:
Recruiting is only half the battle; retaining women requires effort in inclusion. Inclusion is much more than diversity, which merely refers to the breadth of representation in your workforce. Inclusion is embedded (or not) in company culture, where every employee should feel valued, respected, and able to contribute. Data backs this up. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies and programs affect job-selection decisions for more than half of candidates, according to recent research.
Unfortunately, most women do not feel fully included: 3 in 4 women in technology jobs told the research center in 2017 that they experienced gender discrimination at work, and our survey of our clients last year indicated gender bias is still a significant concern.
Only 7 in 10 tech companies self-reported achieving pay equity in 2020, according to new data. In an analysis of 17 companies, parity was claimed at the intern and executive levels, yet men earned between 2% and 7% more than women in the entry, mid-management, and senior management levels that account for most jobs in those organizations.
With caregiving responsibilities often falling primarily on women, companies should embrace remote work, flexible schedules, shared schedules, phase-in schedules (starting part-time and transitioning to full-time), and contract work to keep employees with caregiving duties on board, or at least connected. The pandemic has forced employers to realize that integrating work and life is possible, and traditional approaches to work can be outdated.
Role models, sponsors, mentors, and peer support can make a big difference in retaining talent. According to a Capital One Women in Technology survey, 3 out of 4 women who remained in tech careers had role models, compared to 56% of those who left. Women who stayed and succeeded were twice as likely to credit peer groups of other women for their success.