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3 things every tech business needs to know about its female talent

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Programmes like the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards have an unprecedented impact on the number of women entering into and rising up through the dynamic technology sector.

But the industry’s low female representation and high attrition rates continue to be a cause for concern. We’ve conducted research amongst a cross section of women in technology, to understand the barriers to on-going success, and to enable employers to understand how they can better attract, retain and advance female talent.

The resulting paper, Examining the pipeline: What has the biggest impact on gender parity in the technology industry?, is a must-read for anyone working in a male-dominant technology organisation or business unit, or interested in the challenges around the industry’s gender gap. Read on for a sample of the insights contained in the report.

1. Flexible working options are important to women—but one factor is equally essential...

Technology has been a catalyst for the huge rise in remote and freelance working. Tech giants, meanwhile, have set the bar high in how they enable their workforces to make full use of the flexibility their systems—and cultures—allow (Google famously invites its workers to spend one day a week on personal passion projects). Condensed hours, remote meeting attendance, and work from home options have undoubtedly been an enabling factor for women in particular, who typically have a greater need for flexibility. But there’s something equally important to women in tech, and it has a causal link to employee loyalty...

Knowing my employer is committed to gender diversity.

It’s the number one reason for staying on with an employer for 17% of women—the same number who say that flexibility is the biggest reason they don’t look elsewhere. In fact, such knowledge is deemed more significant for loyalty than the opportunity of finding more meaningful work or higher salaries elsewhere.

Studies show that when women leave the business, the cost in terms of re-hiring and loss of business continuity is significant. And so it’s clear that organisations simply can’t afford to ignore this need. As well as developing robust and actionable diversity and inclusion strategies, organisations will undoubtedly benefit from ensuring they keep their current and future female talent abreast of and involved in their on-going commitment to gender parity.

2. Lack of role models is a significant cause of the gender gap

 

The technology sector’s male dominance is self-perpetuating. A shortage of female role models means young girls considering a career in tech have few examples by which to navigate both their entry into the sector and their early careers. As a result, fewer women enter the sector and go on to become the managers and leaders who would be role models for others wishing to rise up. 
 25% of women say that being able to see more women in senior positions is the thing most likely to make them want to stay on with their current employer.

This lack of female role models is keenly felt by women in technology. Over half (56%) identify it as the number one cause of the industry’s gender gap—a clear message that organisations must do more to identify role models across their businesses, and take steps to elevate them to platforms from which they can share their knowledge and insight to the sector’s future stars.

3. “Macho” cultures are the biggest blocker to female advancement

Women enter the technology field because of its reputation as an industry that enables a long and varied path to the top. Our study found that the sector’s opportunities for career progression are, in fact, the number one attraction.

But workplace cultures infused with out-dated attitudes are the undoing of such optimism. “Macho” and “biased”, an “exclusive boy’s club” is how some women in technology perceive the environments they work in. That has huge knock-on effects for their ambition, with 21% saying that workplace cultures which “do not welcome or support female progression”, is the biggest challenge they face—a clear sign that organisations must avoid token measures and seeking “silver bullets” where diversity and inclusion are concerned. Incremental changes that tackle widespread cultural issues are essential.

To discover more about the challenges facing women in technology and the organisational solutions that can help close the gender gap, download our free paper: Examining the pipeline: What has the biggest impact on gender parity in the tech?