The tech industry appears to be a breeding ground for discrimination – regardless of whether women are in tech roles or not
A recent survey has found that gender bias in the tech industry is worse than many women expect with discrimination evident across every type of role.
Conducted by Booking.com, the global study set out to understand the perceptions of women working in non-tech roles – such as HR, finance and marketing – within the tech industry.
The research revealed that the majority of women find working in the tech industry appealing because it offers them freedom to innovate (81%), a fast paced working environment (70%) and flexible working hours (78%).
Other advantages of working for a tech company include informality of dress code (69%) and less hierarchical structures (61%) compared to other industries.
However, almost half (42%) of women in non-tech roles think that gender bias is worse than they had expected. This percentage rises even higher for women who are further up on the corporate ladder, with 52% of women in senior management roles and 57% of women who are executive board members stating that they have experienced gender bias in the workplace.
Moreover, almost half of the respondents (48%) felt that as a woman in a non-tech role they are less respected than a man would be in their position.
“While we know there are too few women in developer and engineering roles specifically, we also know that there is a significant gender gap in non-technology roles as well, which I believe has to do with myth and perception that there aren’t opportunities for women in tech who don’t have a coding or engineering background,” said Gillian Tans, CEO of Booking.com.
“Technology companies need women in those roles, but they also need more women across other critical functions like marketing and finance,” continued Tans. “More women in non-technical roles can help drive and engage women in technical roles too – diversity extends beyond functional silos.”
The same study also sought to identify key issues which are driving the disparity and one of the most prominent responses was in regards to a lack of strong female role models.
A huge 90 per cent of respondents said the lack of female role models and leaders in the industry is creating barriers for women. The same percentage of women working in non-tech roles indicated that seeing more women in leadership roles would inspire them to advance their career in tech.
This was also demonstrated by the fact that more than a third of the surveyed women (34%) agreed that a mentorship program would encourage them to progress their tech careers. However, only 20% of them said that their employer had such a program in place.
“Driving change and achieving gender diversity starts at the top and we must encourage more positive role models for women across all functions in the tech industry,” said Tans. “We know the majority of women see compelling benefits to working in technology, and we must collaborate as a sector to encourage non-tech professional women to enter the tech industry, and better support them to achieve their fullest potential.”
Unsurprisingly, the perception of gender bias is reported to be a significant barrier for women working in tech firms – both in tech roles and in non-tech roles.
The research suggests that gender bias starts with the recruitment process, with more than two thirds of respondents believing that that benefit packages are not adapted to women (68%) and that career opportunities in tech are advertised more often to men (75%).
Almost half of the respondents (46%) felt that they are treated differently in the workplace because of their gender, and this percentage rises to 59% for women in senior management roles and 58% for executive board members.
The findings also revealed that gender bias is affecting women’s confidence in the workplace, with one in three women admitting that they didn’t feel confident enough to ask for a pay raise.
Moreover, a quarter of the surveyed respondents indicated that they have not felt comfortable to speak up in business meetings and more than a third (36%) admitted that they feel their opinion is not valued.
Booking.com – the leading e-commerce company that commission the survey – says both it and other tech employers can learn a lot from the findings.
“To be able to redress the gender imbalance, technology companies need to address the negative perceptions of a male-dominated workplace and have gender-equal HR policies and benefits packages to better recruit and retain their female talent,” said Tans.
“This is why we are in the early stages of looking at how we can roll out unconscious bias training across our organization, and have implemented a number of internal HR initiatives to increase awareness of the challenges faced by women and ensure our working culture encourages women to achieve their fullest potential.”
Almost all of the women in the survey (92%) agreed that knowing that their employer values women and men equally will inspire them to advance their career, but only 46% felt that gender diversity is a top priority for their organization.
Moreover, only 31% of them believe they have a boss who does not differentiate on gender, and only 27% said they have strong clarity on their career path.