How to retain women in tech

women in tech

In spite of the modern workforce’s changing landscape, females in tech remain few and far between. According to Accenture and Girls Who Code, women only hold 24% of computing jobs in the US and without intervention, this percentage could decline to 22% by 2025.

The benefits of having women in tech have been investigated and are clear. Gender diversity in the tech space leads to increased revenue and profitability. According to research by Morgan Stanley, looking at a period of five years, highly gender-diverse tech companies returned on average 5.4% more on an annual basis than their peers with less gender diversity.

In research presented by Catalyst, we also see that in 2018, women were estimated to control about $40 trillion in consumer spending across the world. This figure increased from $29 trillion in 2013, when it was also noted that women controlled 64% of household spending.

What does that mean for tech companies?

When it comes to product targeting, a gender-diverse team is in many cases more in tune with the customer (often women, as statistics reveal) and can therefore reach their audience more effectively, helping organizations succeed.

In addition, diversity of thought leads to increased innovation, greater creativity and better problem-solving.

Why, then, are there still so few women in tech?

Let’s learn from those who left

Apparently, it’s not the actual work that is to blame. In fact, the Capital One Women in Technology Survey summary reveals that a very low 2% of *respondents who had left the tech field said they were not happy with their work. Further, among those who stayed in tech, 78% said they’re happy with their work.

Survey respondents who had left the tech industry point to three main areas that caused them to do so:

  • 23% noted weak management support as a reason for their departure from the field
  • 20% said they lacked opportunity
  • 22% reported that they didn’t have enough work-life balance

Even among women who decided to stay in tech, 73% had considered leaving their careers at some point as a result of the following challenges:

  • 27% felt there was limited opportunity for advancement
  • 25% cited unfair compensation compared with peers
  • 22% also said they had little support from managers

What do those who stayed have to say?

Aside from the apparent enjoyment of their work, women who stayed in the field noted the following areas as reasons that they have done so:

  • 56% remained because they’re good at the work
  • 44% said they enjoy working with other technologists
  • 41% cited fair and good compensation
  • 39% felt that they have the flexibility to achieve work-life balance

 * Respondents included 250 women who have stayed in a technology career for a minimum of eight years and have attained senior roles, and 200 women who worked in technology for at least three years and no longer work in the industry.

How do you avoid losing women in tech?

It’s clear that women’s contribution to the field is significant. And, we know that you don’t want to lose great people. Aside from other ramifications, it’s expensive to see employee go, with each lost employee conservatively costing a company an average of 33% of the employee’s base pay.

So, what can you do to keep your female employees (especially high performers and those with leadership ability) in tech? Here are a few foundational principles that aid retention:

  • Combat gender discrimination in your corporate culture

Much of an organization’s ability to retain its high performers hinges on its culture. A good starting point is therefore ensuring that you combat any traces of gender discrimination in your company culture.

It’s not uncommon to hear of gender-based discrimination in the workplace nowadays, and that’s largely because people are taking a stand against it. Sometimes a company’s culture is overtly sexist, but more often there’s a subtle undercurrent of hostility or an unconfirmed suspicion of unequal pay or promotion opportunities.

Women want to be part of an organization that values their skills and recognize (as well as fairly remunerate) their worth. Combatting a culture of gender discrimination requires transparency and communication at every stage of the employee journey – it should form part of your diversity and inclusion strategy. Learn more here. 

  • Motivate with more than money

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, because it’s that important. People are driven by more than their income.

Those with high intrinsic motivation (i.e. they are driven by internal rewards and satisfaction) perform much better than people offered high extrinsic motivation (i.e. external rewards). And, simply put, the three keys to intrinsic motivation are: autonomy, mastery, and purpose – which you can learn more about here.

In the Capital One report, we see that 93% of women who stayed in tech rated a sense of purpose as an important or very important trait for successful individuals. Referring back to our point about intrinsic motivation, people want to know that their work is meaningful and that they’re a part of a culture that sees value in their contribution.

  • Create opportunities for growth

In a recent blog, we explored what modern employees really want. One of the greatest driving forces behind retention is the opportunity for growth. People want to know that there is a career trajectory for them at your company, that there is room for them to advance, acquire new skills and put those into practice. People are driven by an intrinsic desire to master their craft and do their best work.

Opportunities for growth can also be created through:

  • Continuous learning: Nowadays, the corporate world is using ‘microlearning’ to deliver skills training, and it’s a great way to keep your employees engaged. Microlearning breaks course material up into smaller chunks and uses technology to present it to learners in an interactive manner. Learn more about creating a culture of continuous learning here.

The majority of women surveyed for the Capital One report said that training is critical for success in tech.

  • Internal gigs: Giving employees the opportunity to take on stimulating internal work gigs in other departments and teams can help them learn, grow and make a real difference. Internal gigs boost morale, encourage creativity and a sense of ‘intrapreneurship’, and they can lead to new revenue streams. Discover how to create an internal gig program here.
  • Mentorship: The Capital One report notes that 75% of women who stayed in tech had female role models at their company, whereas 44% of women who left the field did not.

Mentorship is an invaluable ‘method’ by which a seasoned professional can guide another employee with less experience, showing them the ropes and helping them move forward in their career. A mentor doesn’t have to be part of the same company, though. We share some more thoughts on mentorship here.

  • Networking: Encouraging networking, internally and externally, is good for employees’ development and confidence. Establishing connections and professional relationships with external suppliers, clients and partners opens the door to learn from others, to gain deeper insight into the industry – and it might even spark new business opportunities for your organization.

Retain women in tech with technology

Thanks to developments in the tech space, organizations are able to better retain women in tech.

Our suite of intuitive talent management modules is designed to help modern companies hang on to the employees they can’t afford to ignore. We offer software for everything from employee integration, to real-time feedback, gigs, work allocation, growth and development, and performance management.

Find out more here:

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