The number of women in technical roles is dropping

Dive Brief:

  • The relative representation of women in technical roles declined between 2018 and 2022, according to and McKinsey & Company data.
  • At work, nearly one-third of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only woman in the room, according to the survey of 40,000 employees and 333 organizations employing more than 12 million people.
  • Women technologists are more likely to say their gender has played a part in being passed over for career advancement opportunities than women in non-technical roles, according to the report.

Dive Insight:

Part of the issue hampering gender diversity is that women are underrepresented throughout the tech talent pipeline.

For entry-level positions in IT services and telecom, just 37% are women, according to the report. That number rises slightly to 41% for software entry-level positions and dips to less than one-third in technology hardware entry-level positions. 

The percentage of women in positions after entry level, from manager to C-suite, for the most part, declines with each promotion. In IT services and telecom, women occupy 1 in 4 C-suite level roles. 

The lack of women throughout the tech talent pipeline shows the responsibility to diversify the workforce spans beyond the recruitment stage.

It’s important to remember that everyone has a part to play in diversifying the tech industry and fostering an inclusive culture at work, according to Aditi Subbarao, who leads the financial service industry vertical at software development platform Instabase. 

“If you’ve had help, pay it forward. Be the boss, the colleague, the mentor, the friend that you wish you had,” Subbarao said in an email. “We all have a responsibility in making tech and STEM industries a place for women to thrive, succeed, and feel fulfilled — and we all have the power to do that, together.” 

Some businesses have worked to strengthen their talent pipelines. 

At Intuit, the software company launched two initiatives, an apprenticeship program and return to work program, from 2018 to 2020 to grow the representation of women in technical roles. As a result of these programs, one-third of tech roles at the company are held by women, an increase from 27% in 2019, according to the report. 

Return to work initiatives have become more popular since the pandemic, but aren’t novel. Amazon launched a “returnship” program in 2021 and expected at least 3 in 4 participants to be women returning to the workforce. Skanska UK launched a similar program in 2017, helping 260 candidates join programs across the country and 96% of participants secured a permanent position.

But just adding more women to tech roles won’t solve underlying issues within the sector.

In the U.S., more than 1 in 5 women in tech have experienced verbal abuse, sexual harassment or intimidation in the workplace, according to Ensono data released in November. Workplace harassment and abuse are even more common among women of color.

In addition to implementing anonymous employee hotlines, ongoing training and eliminating the fear of retaliation for employees that speak up, businesses should encourage employees to participate in mentorship opportunities to retain workers. 

“Mentorship is the easiest way to be an ally to women and underrepresented groups in tech,” Kate O’Brien, recruiting manager for global go to market and customer success G&A at Instabase, said in an email. “For anyone who wants to empower women within their organization, find ways to support them and show them faith as you give them a seat at the table.”

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