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Gender Equality in Tech: The Causes of Under-represented Women in Tech

11 months ago by Gravitas Recruitment Group
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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, the United Nations promoted the theme of ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’ aiming to protect women’s rights in digital technology, while encouraging more women to engage in technology innovation.

This article is the first in a three part series focusing on gender equality in the tech sector. We dive deep into current global trends in gender diversity within technology and try to understand reasons why women continue to be under-represented in the sector.

You’ll discover:

  • Global representation of women in tech

  • STEM education facts, comparing men and women

  • How gender bias is affecting women entering tech roles

  • How women are being pushed out of careers by inequality

Current representation of women in tech

In recent years, an increasing number of tech companies have stepped up their efforts in hiring diverse talent, with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) a significant priority. However, women continue to be under-presented in the male-dominated tech sector. 

Globally, women make up only 28% of the technology workforce. In the EU, women make up less than 20% of IT workers in the sector, only occupying 22% of all tech roles across European companies.

In China it is a slightly more optimistic picture. Based on a survey by Silicon Valley Bank, 70% of tech start-up firms have one or more females in Chief Executive Officer roles. However, according to data published by Boss Zhipin, the largest online recruitment platform in China, women still only make up less than 20% of the most popular tech positions.

Top reasons behind gender inequality in tech

1.STEM education uptake remains too low

While the number of women in tech completing STEM qualifications is improving, there is still a long way to go.

The number of women accepted into full time STEM undergraduate courses in the UK, has increased by 50% from 2011 to 2020. However, based on a recent PWC survey, there is still a significant gender gap in UK STEM education. The survey researched over 2,000 A-Level and university students and showed that, compared to 52% of males, only 30% of females had chosen a STEM subject at university. Furthermore, only 27% of female students claimed to be considering a career in technology, compared to 61% of males.

Even in China, despite more positive representation of women in higher level IT roles, women still only make up 30% of STEM students.

The lack of entry into STEM education has widened the gap in the tech talent pool and is one of the underlying factors when understanding female under-representation.

2.Gender bias in the recruitment process

A recent survey found 65% of tech recruiters believe bias remains a problem in the tech recruitment process.

Unconscious bias happens at every stage of the recruitment process, from utilising gender-associated language within job adverts, to asking about childcare or family plans during interview. In addition, there is a tendency for all of us to unconsciously gravitate towards people similar to ourselves. If an organisation already has a lack of gender diversity it is likely that this will not improve without recognition of the issue. Current statistics state that a man is 1.5 times more likely to secure a job over a woman applicant with an equal level of skills and experience.

This is compounded by the fact that there is likely to be a large confidence gap between men and women. An internal survey of HP (Hewlett Packard) revealed that most women will apply for a role only if they meet 100% of the criteria, while most of the men apply when they meet just 60%.

There is also a level of more conscious discrimination suffered by women, especially those with children, when navigating the recruitment process. Experimental research consisted of sending fictitious resumes of people between 37 to 39 years of age for 1,372 real jobs in Spain. It discovered that under equal terms, the likelihood for women without children receiving a call for interview was 23.5% lower than men without children.

3.Low retention of women in the tech sector

If a woman gets through the recruitment process, there are a number of biases to be found within organisations, which affect talent retention. These include lower salaries and fewer promotion opportunities. These factors influence women to leave the technology sector, often mid-way through their careers.

Based on the study by STEM Women, once women enter the tech field, they leave at a 45% higher rate than men. 56% of women leave the tech industry 10-20 years into their careers - double the rate of men. The primary reasons aren’t that they are unhappy with their current jobs but that they lack career opportunities, poor management, and they have slower salary growth compared to men.

In the same survey:

  • Only 50% of women believe that they have the same opportunities to enter senior leadership roles as their male colleagues.

  • 60% of women would earn more if they were paid the same as men with equivalent levels of education and work hours.

  • 70% tech companies self-reported achieving pay equity in 2020.

Another retention barrier for women in tech is difficulties in finding balance between work and family. According to a survey of 100 women in tech, 72% believe their career is suffering due to childcare and family responsibilities. Women are 8 times more likely than mento take care of sick children or manage their children’s schedules, with childcare taking precious time out of their workday.

The pandemic has compounded the situation. Reuters’s research shows women disproportionately affected by any tech company layoffs. The Women Tech Network revealed that 69.2% tech companies’ layoffs in 2022 were women.

Hiring advice to help you attract a more balanced workforce

As a result, gender inequality remains a problem, not only in the recruitment process but also in terms of talent retention for women in tech. In the next article in our gender equality in tech series, we will continue to study the top benefits of employing more women in tech.

If you would like general hiring advice for your technology positions, or you would like guidance on how to minimise unconscious bias in the recruitment process, then contact us today and speak to one of our expert consultants.

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