Fewer women working in tech now than in 1984: Report

Expert details how employers can help women in technology progress to leadership roles

Fewer women working in tech now than in 1984: Report

The number of women in the technology space has been dropping over the past years.

At 32%, the share of women working in tech is now lower than it was in 1984, when it was 35%, according to a report by Techopedia.

And the percentage of women in tech leadership roles fell to 28% in 2023.

“There was a real optimism and drive to work towards equality within the industry, starting back in the year right in the 80s. But that's eroded somewhat over the past number of years,” says Trish Sale, VP of product, iQmetrix.

“I have seen that as well. Sometimes, the climate that young woman encounter – once they get into the industry – isn't what they were led to expect that they might see [and] there continues to be some challenges within workplaces to really drive towards true inclusion and true respect for everyone who is in the workplace.”

According to LinkedIn’s “Jobs on the Rise 2024” report, out of the 20 jobs listed as most quickly on the rise, 12 are largely held by men, many with wide gender gaps, especially in tech roles which dominate the list.

What is the female representation in the technology industry?

About a third (32%) of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only woman in the room at work, according to Techopedia.

And 50% of women in tech roles leave them by the age of 35.

These two statistics are related, notes Sale.

“When you have a majority of voices that are not like your own in a space, there is a tendency to not make your voice as loud, and to be uncomfortable in that space.

“When you're simply surrounded by others who are not like you – whether that is for reasons of gender or reasons of racial background – it really leads to a space that doesn't bring out those voices and ensure that you really hear the different opportunities that are in the room.”

Overall, 40% of female professionals in North America feel underpaid for what they do, compared with just 24% among male respondents, according to data from Robert Walters. Also, more than three in four women across the world have experienced ageism throughout their careers, according to another report.

Simply bringing more women into the tech industry could make a difference, says Sale.

“Once you get that second or third or fourth woman in the room, it changes the tone of the conversation. There is generally a tendency to listen a little bit more, and to ensure that you're getting a diversity of viewpoints. 

“The other reality is that when there are others in your workplace who understand the challenges that you're up against – whether that's with the realities of home life and child rearing or whether it's the realities of not having an equal voice in the in the room – you're more willing to stay and to believe that there's going to be positive change. Or you're more likely to find that decisions that are made around leave of absence, remote work, timing of various different pressures are different when there's more people in the room who share your experiences.”

How do you recruit women into technology?

Ottawa recently made a move to try to get more women into the skilled trades.

For employers looking to bring more female workers into tech, catching them before they even start their professional careers is a good start, says Sale.

For iQmetrix, one thing they’ve done is to participate in high school and university events to encourage women to join tech and to see opportunity. 

“Seeing others who are already in the industry come and speak to you can give you encouragement that that really is a career that will be both successful for you, as well as welcoming,” she says.

“That welcoming piece is really important to give young women confidence that the space they're moving into is going to be a welcoming space, where they can expect to be successful and not to find the challenges of being passed over for leadership opportunities, or some of the toxic workplaces that sometimes happen when you have a concentration of just one group.”

And when employers do get women to join the tech space, it’s also important for them to train them for leadership positions because it brings a lot of positives to the company, says Sale.

“When I see a leadership group that's diverse, I find that they are more open, interested and expectant of other diverse leadership groups and companies they do business with. You also find that when you have women in the room for the conversations of what are the priorities for a company, it does sometimes shift what those priorities are in terms of understanding the needs of their workforce, and making space for other women within that organization to take on new roles and take on leadership roles.”

And to help women rise to the top, employers must encourage and support them, she says.

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