Key Things Holding Women in Tech Back and What Can be Done

Female applicants working in receptionist or lower office positions are holding women in tech back

Women remain underrepresented in tech company positions. Improvements are ongoing, but it’ll take a while to get closer to true gender equality according to the 2021 Women in Tech survey, people in the industry expect it will be 32 years before gender parity is reached in the tech fields. While that may feel disheartening to those looking to close the gap, some things are holding women in tech back and what can be done that will make a difference now. 

Here are five excellent ways holding women in tech back:

A Skewed Hiring Process:

To be hired into a tech job, women have to first go through the application and interview process. That’s easier said than done. Despite many companies’ efforts to recruit more diverse talent including more women research shows it’s natural for people to tend to hire candidates who are more like them. It’s called “affinity bias” and when 75% of executive and senior positions in tech are held by men, that can put women at a serious disadvantage during hiring even when good intentions are at play.

Affinity bias can also start long before the interview, as job descriptions tend to reflect the backgrounds of the people who already hold, or have already held, these positions—which leaves little room for diversity. 

For example, surveys have shown that many top technology companies prefer candidates from top-tier or Ivy League universities even when data suggests those candidates may not be of higher quality. While this example may not put women at a disadvantage specifically, it is clear that highly specific job descriptions serve to bring the same kinds of people through the door.

A Lack of a Strong Pipeline of Women in STEM Fields:

According to researchers, holding women in tech back can also be attributed to the school and university pipelines that should be feeding qualified female applicants into these positions. Studies show that isn’t happening.

Although girls take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers to boys, fewer women pursue majors in these areas in the university. By graduation, women earn only 20% of bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. Female representation continues to decline through more advanced degrees and in the transition to the workplace.

Lack of Internal Support and Mentorship:

Do you have, or have you ever, relied on a mentor at work? If you’re a woman, the odds are against you. The smaller number of women in tech especially in management and executive roles means women working their way up the ladder have fewer people like them to aspire to and fewer advocates to help them along on their journey.

The very nature of women being ‘the only’ in a room is problematic, the only woman or the only Black person on a team and it can be very daunting.

Tech’s “Bro” Culture:

Silicon Valley’s reputation for having a “bro” culture is no secret. It’s been in the news for years. Whole books have been written about it and its impact. Of course, though, the problem extends far beyond Silicon Valley. According to surveys 2021 Women in Tech Report, 72% of women in tech said they worked at a company where “bro culture is pervasive.”

Not only does this mean holding women in tech back but to have to deal with bro culture’s manifestations, which can range from an uncomfortable work environment to sexual harassment and sexual assault, it also means they’ll struggle to feel included, welcome, and confident enough to reach for the same heights as their male colleagues.

Lack of Support for Working Parents:

The COVID-19 pandemic created all kinds of problems for working people. But one thing it revealed very clearly is how vulnerable women are to the impact that caregiving, whether for children or aging parents, had on their jobs. According to a survey, women were most likely to take on additional caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic; 29% said they had taken on a greater childcare burden compared to 19% of men. 

Forty-three percent of women also said they had taken on extra responsibilities at work compared to 33% of men respondents. As a result of the additional stress, more than 1.2 million people exited the workforce in 2020; 900,000 of them holding women in tech back.

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