The State of Women in Tech
Initially, the IT industry was, probably unintentionally, structured to favor men over women as it was regarded that STEM fields are more "naturally-suited" for men, creating a bias toward women.
Additionally, with the rise of startups, the system blossomed and was, unfortunately, again geared toward men to succeed, fostering attributes such as extreme competitiveness, hustle culture, and excessively long working hours.
Such masculinity workplaces drove women, especially high-performers, away. This led to women becoming globally underrepresented in IT, especially in software engineering, representing just 14% of the workforce. And when they are a part of an IT company, they are often not paid the same as their male colleagues. We also see, industry-wide, that female-led startups face a lack of funding (only 2% are VC funded) and often receive biased questions from the VCs. For example, male entrepreneurs are asked about the potential for gains, while females are asked about the possibility of losses. All this, and plenty of other situations, lead to negative funding consequences.
Are most women in tech just diversity hires?
Overall, the global IT industry still has a long way to go regarding gender diversity, especially in hiring women for software engineering and computer science jobs.
From my experience, gender diversity starts at the technical entry level. If women are, at this step, discouraged from pursuing their desired career path, they will probably try their career path somewhere else, in a women-dominated field. However, if they manage to break through the first barrier but still encounter a tough road ahead regarding gender and racial inequality, they will be more likely to drop-of. Therefore, we must create a positive and nurturing environment where women can thrive and contribute.
I noticed that when you have a gender-diverse workplace, there is a higher probability that a company will develop higher-quality products or services because of the different backgrounds, experiences, and ideas. Remember one of the most important sentences that Grace Hopper, an early technology pioneer, and computer scientist, said: "The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'We've always done it this way.'" So, if you have an IT company with primarily male employees, maybe one of the boldest ideas you'll have next year is to – hire more women. I believe this would probably be one of your best decisions.
Are things getting better or worse for women in tech?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 severely influenced women in tech, especially those in Western countries, and contributed to mass layoffs. Due to mandatory work-from-home, over 53% of women reported burnout caused by struggling to balance being a dedicated professional and a caring parent, ultimately resulting in women leaving their IT-held positions. Those who pushed through and remained in IT saw a regression of gender parity, and over 54% of women report that it's harder for them to break into IT since the pandemic.
The end of the year is also a time when we are often reminded that women in some companies have to work an additional 42 days a year to make the pay between women and men equal. According to EU Commission, women in European countries still earn 13% less per hour than what their male counterparts do and don't get the same opportunities for advancement. Fortune.com also reported that only 4.8% of CEOs at Global 500 companies are women. These stats break my heart because I'm sure IT companies worldwide can do a better job of creating a supportive workplace for women, at least in the same way we do in Vega IT.
How can your IT company be more inclusive?
Women in the workplace have specific needs, so it's essential for companies to - fully understand those needs, make women feel included, and offer them benefits that support work-life harmony. But what should the process look like?
- First, cover the basics
Transparency is a virtue often overlooked in companies. Yet, it strongly influences company culture. Aim to create a workplace that respects transparency, accountability, and trust. These three will help you build strong and resilient gender-blended teams in the long term. But how do you do that? It's simple. Develop frequent feedback loops, work on constructive criticism, and open dialogues across horizontal and vertical positions.
- Adapt your hiring process for women
Hiring great talent makes your workplace attractive enough for talent from diverse backgrounds. So remember that even tiny things like language that might be unintentionally geared toward men can drive women away. Make sure you have eliminated gendered wording. Also, when it comes to the interview part, create a panel that showcases even split among genders or unrepresented groups. This way, you are also signaling how important it is to you to adapt to the situation.
- Provide women with opportunities for growth
Women want to have the same opportunities for career development as men. Every woman knows how important it is to have options for growth, and the companies that offer it are where women will stay longer. Unfortunately, when women dive into motherhood, many companies tend to penalise them for having children, often referred to as the "mommy tax." They are passed over for promotions or isolated from essential projects that could move their career forward. So, creating a women-friendly workplace is closely connected to creating a family-oriented workplace where women can thrive without being stigmatised. For example, last year, we made our 8-month pregnant colleague a partner in our company. She deserved it with her results and dedication and was delighted to accept it!
Every year, conduct an audit to determine how many women are promoted to executive positions, whether they are taking education to work on their skills and knowledge and whether they are compensated equally as men are.
- Pay women fairly
This one is simple. CLOSE. THE. WAGE. GAP.
- Offer quality benefits
Senior managers should also lead by example, so have frequent one-on-ones to discuss room for improvement and how they can contribute to a diverse workplace. However, quality benefits are one of the main things that distinguish an excellent working environment, especially regarding women and their needs.
For instance, Vega IT offers various benefits that appeal to our colleagues. We take care of their health with paid yoga, CrossFit and gym training, private health insurance, and daily fresh seasonal fruits and refreshments. They are expanding their skills and knowledge with our in-house lectures, paid training, and paid foreign language courses. Being a socially responsible company, we also strongly emphasise various charity activities, and our colleagues can participate in plenty of them. Of course, team building gatherings, travelings, and parties are a regular staple on our benefits list.
Closing the gender gap in the tech industry
If you are not paying close attention or have not initially structured your organisation/company to be inclusive and geared toward women, you will probably have difficulty closing the gender gap. Why? Because you will first need to work on raising awareness of that issue in the company so people can begin to understand the actual problem.
However, if your company is still young and lean, here are a few recommendations from my side for avoiding the general gap altogether:
- Streamline your hiring process and ensure diversity on the hiring team
- Increase the visibility of female managers, team leads, and especially engineers
- Develop a formal diversity policy and enforce it in a workplace
- Address gender equality on the leadership team
- Promote based on results
I'm eager to hear your thoughts on the state of women in tech, so please share them with me. Should you know about the companies with similar thoughts and approaches I wrote about in this blog post, link to their posts or share the experience. Only together can we move the industry forward.
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