The tech industry has a problem.
Despite growing rapidly in recent years, and only accelerating due to the pandemic, the participation of women in technology remains disproportionate compared to their male counterparts. According to projections from Gartner, worldwide IT spending is projected to total $4.6 trillion in 2023, an increase of 5.1% from 2022. Yet, women make up just 28% of the tech industry workforce and only 14% of software engineers.
This disparity comes despite the increasing demand for tech talent. According to ManpowerGroup’s latest Talent Shortage Survey, 78% of employers in the tech industry report not being able to find the talent they need. And too often, the tech industry is focused only on technical skills, when others including critical thinking, reasoning, creativity, and more, matter just as much.
With demand for tech and IT only growing, why can’t we get more women in the industry? Megan Smith, former U.S. Chief Technology Officer has a suggestion.
“We need to change the narrative around women in tech from one of scarcity to one of abundance,” Smith says. “There is no shortage of talented women, just a shortage of opportunities and support.”
Invest in Education, Experience, and Exposure
Women need better support and resources for career development and advancement. Companies should invest in training and mentoring programs that target women and provide them with the skills and networking opportunities they need to advance in their careers.
During the Women in the Post-Pandemic World of Work session at the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, ManpowerGroup’s Chief Commercial Officer and President of North America Becky Frankiewicz said whether we call it mentorship, sponsorship, or even friendship, it's critical to support women.
“I've been the benefactor of many, many women and men who have invested in me, who took bets on me, who saw things in me that I didn't see in myself,” Frankiewicz says. “We were asked recently by our leadership team to reflect over the last year on what's our proudest accomplishments. And without thinking, I said, ‘Enabling a team to achieve things they didn't know they could’ because, to me, that's what helps us unlock in ourselves things that we don't see.”
Solutions for Bridging the Gap
Achieving gender equity in tech is crucial not only for creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce but also for promoting innovation and driving economic growth. Here are some strategies that can bridge the gap and accelerate the path to equity:
Addressing Biases in Hiring: One of the significant barriers to achieving gender equity in the technology industry is biased hiring practices. Unconscious biases can prevent women from being hired, promoted, and even recognized for their work. To combat this, companies should implement strategies like blind screening, using gender-neutral language in job descriptions, and utilizing diverse hiring panels to eliminate bias.
Providing Opportunities for Professional Development: Professional development opportunities can help women in the technology industry gain the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to advance in their careers. Companies can provide training, mentorship, and networking opportunities to help women develop the skills and confidence needed to succeed in the technology industry.
Supporting Work-Life Balance: The tech industry is known for its long working hours and intense work culture, which can make it challenging for women, and men alike, to balance work and family responsibilities. Companies should provide flexible work arrangements like work-from-home, part-time or reduced hours options, and generous parental leave policies, to help women achieve work-life balance.
Creating a Supportive and Inclusive Work Culture: Companies need to create a supportive and inclusive work culture that values diversity and fosters collaboration. This can be achieved through initiatives like employee resource groups, diversity and inclusion training, and policies that promote work-life balance and mental health support.
Fixing the Gender Pay Gap: The gender pay gap is a persistent problem in the tech industry. To address this, companies should conduct regular pay audits and ensure that women are paid fairly and equitably. Additionally, companies can create transparency around pay and promotions, providing clear guidelines for how these decisions are made.
Increasing Diversity by Providing Access to Digital Technology: In developing countries, and lower-income communities in developed countries, access to tech is often limited which creates a digital divide. As a result, women in these areas are unable to participate fully in tech, limiting their opportunities for education and economic growth. By offering affordable computers, access to the internet, etc., more women will be able to get started with STEM and tech programs and have more resources to pursue education or career opportunities.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. But what we can’t do is accept the status quo and wait for things to sort themselves out. The time for action is now. And by acting, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming culture, providing access to education and training, and empowering women to become leaders in the industry. In doing so, not only will we be helping women, but we will be able to improve the tech industry, making it more fair, equitable, and sustainable at the same time.