A staggering 56% of women leave the tech industry 10-20 years into their careers, which is double the rate of men. With only 26% of the tech force being women in 2022, it is important that companies look into why women are leaving these roles and try to change this, otherwise this percentage will only decrease. There are many benefits to having women in the tech industry, including that gender diversity allows technology to rise to meet the needs of society as a whole and for new ideas and points of view be put across. This guide will cover 6 of the top reasons women leave the tech industry and how organisations can try and tackle these issues.
A common reason women leave their tech roles is due to the lack of career progression opportunities. With women holding 32.8% of entry-level positions in computer science-related jobs and only 10.9% holding CEO or senior leadership roles, it’s easy to see why it may be considered to be hard to develop a career for a woman in tech. However, as many as 68% of men in tech believe women have equal progression opportunities, which may be contributing to the problem as they may be unaware of how women in their company feel and 35% of men also believe there are enough women in senior positions in technology, compared with 12% of women. Men feeling this way may be giving rise to this issue because if there’s not a problem, there’s nothing to fix!
McKinsey’s 2021 ‘Women in the Workplace’ report found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. Reflecting this, in the UK, just 22% of tech directors are women, and women are four times more likely to consider gender bias a barrier to promotion. However, tech companies are missing out by not having women in senior positions – female-led companies have been found to have improved turnover and happier staff, as well as more socially-responsible values.
Am I good enough for the job? Why did they hire me? These are common questions those suffering from imposter syndrome may ask themselves. In fact, in a report by The Hub Spot showed a shocking 90% of women suffer from this. This can be particularly prominent for women in tech for many reasons, one being due to feeling like your male counterparts can do the job better than them. However, this is far from the truth.
The Data Incubator looks at five ways impostor syndrome affects people in tech, one of which is tech workers overwork themselves due to competition and demanding workloads. They aim to be the best in their field, which means they believe if they were to take off a few days or avoid the responsibilities of a deadline, they’d be shunned. They can then feel that someone else will pick up their work and they will then be overlooked in future. Another factor can be that women in the industry are afraid to ask for assistance as it makes them feel like they are showing incompetence or weakness, particularly if this is requires asking their male colleagues to help.
If you are suffering from imposter syndrome or similar, there are ways you can help yourself. One way is to stop comparing yourself to others. Each time you do compare yourself to others in a situation, you’re likely to find something to which you believe you’re inferior. Therefore, try to look at all the things you have achieved and how far you have come. Also, it is important to set achievable goals. If something is unlikely to be achieved in the set time, you’re only setting yourself up to be disappointed and add fuel to the fire.
Also, there can also be positives to these feelings. Such as, it can make you determined to learn a vast amount about the field, and it can make you check all the details of the work you are doing. However, it is important to not let it overwhelm you and make you feel everything needs to be perfect otherwise you’re a failure.
You can find out more about imposter syndrome and how to cope with it here.
A lack of certain employee benefits can also be a huge reason some women choose to leave their company. This can especially be the case in the tech industry as the majority of those in the tech industry are men and so might not understand or appreciate why certain benefits may be a necessity for women. For example, in the recent Women in Tech survey it was found that found that 63% of women place flexible working in their top three benefits which would attract them to a job. This was followed by remote working and training within a company.
Flexible and remote working can greatly help women for multiple reasons. Such as, if they have children and need to drop them off/pick them up from school or extracurricular activities, this is much easier to do this when you have these employee benefits. Even if you don’t have children, if you are going through menstruation or menopause, it is likely you will feel more comfortable working from home during this time. Also, if you suffer badly with either of these, you may need to have flexible hours, so you can take some time off in the day if symptoms are bad and make up the time later when you are feeling better. Without this it can be easy to suffer from burnout.
Another great employee benefit is good maternity leave, as it gives new mothers time to give birth, recover and bond with their baby. If women feel like their needs have been met by their employer and they feel loyalty from them during this time, it is likely they will want to return to the company when their maternity leave is over. Moreover, pregnancy loss policies and fertility/miscarriage support are also of great importance as approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies ending in miscarriage and it can hinder a person’s ability to go back to work after the loss.
Read more about the top 5 employee incentives for women here.
With only 26% of the tech force being women in 2022, it is not surprising that the company culture in a lot of companies is very male-dominated. However, a recent survey by Women in Tech, showed that it can go beyond just being ‘more male-dominated’. In fact, a staggering 76% of the respondents we asked said that they have experienced gender bias or discrimination in the workplace at least once. Amongst many comments made in the survey, one common remark that was made was feeling overlooked or interrupted by the men in the company. One particular quote being ‘I am the only female manager in my company’s management meetings – yet I am frequently spoken over, cut off, or not given the time to raise my concerns.’ This demonstrates that you can face gender discrimination no matter your position in the company.
This can be where employee networks can be of great use. They are voluntary groups of colleagues with similar beliefs or backgrounds which create a sense of belonging and community. They are a great way to get to know people in your organization that share a common identity in a safe and supportive space and can also give employees the confidence to offer opinions about changes they feel the company can make to ensure all staff feel part of a community. This can be useful for women that are feeling on the outside at work due to their work environment being mostly men. If they feel like they have made bonds with people in the company, they are less likely to want to leave and start a new career.
In our recent survey, it was found 22% of people think that the main reason women are being put off from a career in tech is early misconceptions from a lack of education in young girls. By seeing more female role models in tech, young girls will start to see IT as a realistic and attractive career option. Role models are important as they can be a powerful force for social learning and can help influence their decisions. They also play a large role in motivating people to achieve their goals as they can see that it is possible. However, it is not only before entering a career in tech that they are so important, but they also play a key role throughout a person’s career. Having a female role-model to look up to at work helps demonstrate what can be achieved if you set your mind to it, therefore it is paramount that companies have women in senior and leadership roles.
Moreover, being part of a mentorship can be rewarding for both mentors and mentees, professionally and personally. Companies can also benefit from mentorships as it provides them with future professionals and leaders who can bring success. Having someone you can learn from can help open new professional opportunities, whilst building your confidence in the field. It will also create a bond between the mentor and mentee which can particularly be valued if an employee if feeling isolated in a male-dominated environment, providing emotional support.
Some great examples of women in tech are Capco’s Madeleine Howard who advises women to ‘Trust your instincts and your awareness – do not be put off by others who challenge your intellect, as nine times out of 10 you will have prepped and understood the complexity better than most!’ and DWP’s Ope Anthony who says ‘I’ve recently become a mother and so if I see that an organisation doesn’t offer benefits that support that, it would put me off – it can be off-putting for a lot of women who have to balance work, family, and childcare.’
You can read more about inspiring women in tech here.
With the tech industry’s gender pay gap being at 16%, higher than the national average of 11.6%, it is no wonder why women are choosing to leave the industry. As we have previously mentioned, McKinsey’s 2021 ‘Women in the Workplace’ report found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. This means females are missing out on being promoted to more senior roles with higher pay, thus contributing to the gender pay gap in tech. Whether you are supporting a family, or just yourself, your pay plays a huge part in your life. If it is lower than it should be, it can create stress and ultimately choose you to pick another career that will pay better.
In particular, recent studies have shown that the largest gender pay gap in tech is in early careers, as women under 25 are earning on average 29% less than males their age. The study goes on to suggest that this could be because women are progressively overcoming bias which is seen as a disadvantage over the course of their careers. Alternatively, it could be a sign of changes in the industry or society over recent decades.
As we have discussed, there are multiple reasons why women are choosing to leave their careers in tech. Whether it’s the lack of women in the company, lack of benefits, lower pay for women or the fear of failure, there are ways employers can help fix these factors. A good place to start is to fix the male dominated company culture. In turn this will create more female role models, lead to less discrimination and hopefully it will in time reduce the gender pay gap.
A way your company can show you are tackling these issues is by displaying how you are doing this on your employer career page. You can find out some other factors you can include and how here.