Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. When you think of tech leaders, these are likely the names that come to mind. The sector is often seen as the domain of ‘tech bros’, and it’s long had a disproportionately high proportion of male employees.
Recent data suggests this gender gap is closing. But is happening fast enough, and is there anything we can do to move it along?
The tech sector’s gender split: our benchmarking findings
In our benchmarking research, we could see some interesting statistics when it came to the average composition of the tech industry in 2022…
The bad: only 32.4% of tech workers are women, compared to the UK average of 49.8%
The good: the proportion of women in tech is slowly rising – it was as low as 28.3% in 2019
This corresponds with the incremental increase across all UK industries – a rise of 0.4% since 2017. Which is great news, right? With women making up 51% of the UK population, surely making up 49.8% means they are well-represented? Let’s dig a little deeper.
(Some) women are (slowly) moving up the ladder
Data from McKinsey showed a small increase in the number of women throughout the corporate pipeline in 2023, showing an “encouraging yet fragile” rise of women in senior roles. All progress is good progress, sure, but there are a few caveats here.
Firstly, this rise only applies to white women. Women of colour are wildly unrepresented and this doesn’t look to change – with only 6% making up C-suite teams in McKinsey’s research.
Secondly, the biggest barrier women face is still getting to manager level. And as women who do manage to reach director level are resigning at increasingly higher rates,it’s making a small pipeline even smaller.
In essence, there’s progress… but it’s too slow, not intersectional, and is going to stall if organisations don’t take proactive steps.
What about women in the technology sector?
As we saw in our benchmarking data, there’s a low-but-growing proportion of women working in the tech sector. And research suggests that there’s two overarching reasons for this:
1. Challenges getting women into the tech sector
- Lack of role models: 78% can’t name a famous women in tech, and only 5% of tech leadership roles are filled by women
- Lack of encouragement: only 3% of women say a tech career is their top choice, and only 16% have had it suggested to them as an option (compared to 33% of men)
- Lack of acceptance: over 15% say the male-dominated nature of the tech sector puts them off, and 1 in 5 men in the industry think women aren’t suited to work thereChallenges retaining women in tech roles
2. Challenges retaining women in tech roles
- Sexist attitudes: 72% of women in tech have experienced sexism at work, from offensive banter, undermining of their ability, and being unfairly paid
- Shrinking pipeline: in the US, only 25% of tech degrees were achieved by women, with a 37% drop-out rate, and only 38% of graduates remaining in the industry
- Racist discrimination: 33% of Black women have been assumed to not have a tech role by coworkers, with minority groups making up less than 15% of the workforce
Why the tech sector needs to make faster progress
43% of women in tech consider quitting every week. And with an already disproportionately low number in the workforce, the sector risks stalling and even reversing the minimal progress made. But why is that a problem?
Study after study have shown that diverse workforces see big business benefits, from reducing attrition and absenteeism to increasing profitability and productivity. Tech companies can thrive by tapping into this underutilised section of the workforce – and by taking steps to empower women to move up the ladder, it will have knock-on effects.
How does your organisation compare to tech benchmarks?
Before you take your first steps, you need to understand where you’re starting from. Our free benchmarking tool can help you there – automatically analysing your HR data and comparing it to relevant benchmarks, so you can see where you need to improve. You can even compare different departments to each other, to see if there’s a particular area of your organisation that needs a closer look.