Women in Tech: Their Current Status, What They Have Achieved and What They Want

The gender gap persists in the field of tech. Women who have stuck to it for their career path point out what is still needed to make the talk of diversity and representation more than mere lip service.
Ariella  Brown

What’s the current status of women in tech? There is data that offers answers. The first video below accounts for how it came to be that only about one out of four technology positions are held by women today.   

Those of us who have been to tech conferences and pay attention to the level of representation note that women are usually far outnumbered. Now there’s data to substantiate that.  

Speak Up: Bringing More Women’s Voices to Tech Conferences cast a spotlight on its women at tech conferences and their blatant underrepresentation. Among its key findings were:

  • Only a quarter of tech conference keynotes in the last three years were women.

  • Three-quarters of women surveyed who have sat on a panel at a tech conference report that they were the only woman on the panel.

  • Seventy-six percent of women say they would be more likely to attend a conference with a keynote speaker, panelist or other programming that features a woman.

So for all the talk of diversity, inclusivity,  and representation that organizations promote, women’s positions at tech conferences still falls short. But are things any better in the less public spheres of day-to-day workplaces?


How do women rank in the tech field?

According to the women in tech statistics assembled by Honeypot, the top country for women in tech is Portugal. A big boost for that ranking is that 30.56% of college graduates pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) degrees are women. 

In contrast, the female STEM graduates amount to 24.24% in the U.S., which gets second-place ranking on Honeypot. That number is very close to the percentage that makes up the U.S. tech sector in the U.S. (24.61%). Portugal’s percentage in that category is actually quite a bit lower, just 16.08%.

Additional data on women in tech in the U.S. seems to corroborate that figure that hovers close to a quarter. It reflects the numbers of engineers in real companies in Tracy Chou’s Women in Tech list, a spreadsheet that is updated regularly.

What about pay parity and advancement?

Even those women who have secured a job in tech tend not to be paid as much as their male counterparts. According to the Honeypot figures, in Portugal men earn 11.1%  more than women, and in the U.S. the pay gap is 11.86%. The gaps are similar in other countries, though some drop close to 10%, and some even top 25%.

Women also tend not to rise to as high positions as men do. “Women are by far more likely to be in junior positions than men” admits HackerRank. It found that 20% of women remain in junior positions even when they are older than 35, which means that they are “3.5x more likely to be in junior positions” than men of the same age.

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While women are more likely to remain in junior positions, they are far less likely to rise to the level of a hiring manager. One of the observations in  HackerRank’s Kaggle comments was that a mere 10.3% of the hiring managers surveyed were female.

Tammy Moskites, Managing Director and a security executive at Accenture, offered figures on women in leadership positions at global Fortune 500 companies for a Forbes article on the subject of women in tech. The figures were only slightly better than that in the Kaggle survey: 13% were women.

She added, though that it includes “not just CISOs” but also “CIOs, and senior executives such as a VP in the technology arena.” In all, it comes to what she called “a very, very small amount that equates to about 65 companies out of the 500.”

That account of the women being even more underrepresented in higher-level tech positions fits with the figures cited by a 2014 report, The Gender Divide in Tech-Intensive Industries. It found that women made up 55% of entry-level jobs for tech, while men made up 39%


The retention problem

The Gender Divide report highlights the retention problem: even when more women enter the tech field, they are more likely to leave than men are. Women who had attained the credential to be hiring managers usually did not stay on to enjoy the rise in rank, as women MBAs left the industry at a rate of 53% in contrast to 31% of men. 

In “Won’t You Stay? How to Keep Women in Tech Careers” Janet Foutty, chairman and CEO, Deloitte US pointed out the problem half of the women who enter STEM fields leave by the 10-year point in their careers.

She noted, “If we could reduce female attrition by just 25 percent, it would add 220,000 workers to the science, engineering, and technology talent pool.” That a significant difference that could change the balance for the shortage of tech skills so many employers complain about.

What do women in tech want?

While people may theorize about what it would take to keep women in the tech field, it’s likely better to just ask them what it is they want. That is exactly what I did for an article published on Techopedia.

I put out a query to HARO that drew a huge number of responses. The general consensus was that women want to be given the same consideration and recognition assigned to men in the field.

Some women also tackled the particular problem of the scarcity of women in leadership positions. For example, Libby Fischer, CEO of Whetstone Education said the following:

“What I want most in the tech world is the opportunity for more women to be able to achieve leadership roles in this industry. The lack of women in leadership roles in tech creates fewer role models so, in turn, fully qualified women don’t see tech as a career option for them.”

For this to happen, though, Fischer noted, “‘we need male allies — VCs, board members, co-founders, etc. — to intentionally seek out women to fill leadership seats at their company.’” 

Several women noted that women can be held back by their own self-doubt, as it is not at all uncommon to experience imposter syndrome. “That fact holds us back hugely when we’re struggling to have our voices heard in a room full of the opposite sex,” noted Catherine Chan, CEO of Fitln LTD.

She added, “My biggest wish would be for women to get over this idea of being less than an authority in the arena in which they are experts.”

But sometimes it’s not the women who doubt themselves but those around them who are plagued by unconscious bias.

Monika Radclyffe, the center director of SETsquared Bristo described that women entrepreneurs often run into that:

"The feedback we’ve received from women entrepreneurs is that some have been mistaken for secretaries or PAs, and many feel they have to take male colleagues to investment meetings. Women entrepreneurs are asked about how they’ll juggle their business with family, which male entrepreneurs rarely are."

Speak less and do more

 There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy that plagues organizations who make a big point about caring about recognizing women but not effecting real change. One of the women interviewed for the Techopedia piece, Sage Franch, co-founder and CTO of Crescendo and founder of Trendy Techie calls that “performative inclusion.”

 Instead of throwing money at “‘call-to-action” events like International Women’s Day — it’s time we start the actual action.” she asserted. She added this important insight: “Spending money on panels and ads do not make up for a lack of internal inclusion initiatives. And it’s not enough to just hire more women, companies need to put in the effort to make their cultures inclusive from the ground up.”

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