Nearly a third of women in tech jobs are considering leaving

Nearly a third of women in tech jobs are considering leaving
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The disparity in the number of men and women in technology fields is widening — along with the pay gap between the sexes, according to a new report by online education tech company Skillsoft

The result has been an uptick in women leaving tech careers altogether, and a pay gap growing at a time when organizations across industries have been looking to increase the representation of women in technical roles — including in engineering, product management, and other fast-growing fields.

Nearly one-in-three (31%) of women in tech are considering leaving their organization over the next 12 months due mainly to poor management and a lack of training, and 37% are considering switching roles in the next year. Just 27% of women in tech are extremely satisfied with their jobs, according to Skillsoft’s Skillsoft’s Women In Tech survey, released Thursday.

Women in IT job satisfaction

Skillsoft

Job satisfaction depends on benefits that are tangible: pay rates, paid time off (PTO), and the option of hybrid work, according to the report. Job security was named the top driver of job satisfaction.

“But for women in tech, there can also be subtler energies at play,” the report said. “When we asked our respondents to tell us what would contribute to their choosing to leave a job or employer, 40% cited department or company management as the top factor, and 39% named a lack of training and growth. Only 26% cited increased compensation as an influence.”

Skillsoft’s survey was done online between September 2023 and January 2024; it garnered 507 complete responses from women in 33 countries who work in the tech industry, at tech organizations, or in tech roles.

In Skillsoft’s 2023 IT Skills and Salary survey research, nearly half (45%) of women in tech roles reported being outnumbered by men in the workplace by ratios of 4:1 or greater; that was a significant higher than the 25% who said the same in 2021.

For female IT executives, the numbers are even worse. In 1984, 35% of tech leadership roles were held by women. Today, more than four decades later, that figure has fallen to 28%, according to Forbes.

Skillsoft’s IT Skills and Salary survey found that among tech professionals with 26 or more years of experience, 15% of men hold executive leadership positions, compared to just 4% of women.

Lack of growth a ‘pain point’

“Growth is an underlying pain point, with nearly 30% of women technologists reporting dissatisfaction with their current growth potential and 36% considering changing jobs due to a lack of equity in opportunities,” the report said.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) — specifically generative AI (genAI) — is reshaping industries and careers in terms of the skills needed by organizations and how workers perform their jobs. The largest portion of women in tech are most interested in learning about AI (41%). Even so, 60% said they are not yet using AI at work, and of those who are, 63% haven’t received adequate training to effectively integrate it into their daily workflows, according to Skillsoft.

Another study released last month by job search platform Dice also found women in tech roles have become increasingly dissatisfied, and job search rates have increased. According to Dice, 38% of women in tech are currently job hunting, compared to 30% of men. 

Four out of five women said dissatisfaction with their career development affected their decision to leave their tech role, Dice said. Their discontent stems from a persistent pay gap and workplace culture issues that leave women feeling marginalized. On average, women in tech earn only 71% of what men earn for comparable work. 

Women in IT job satisfaction

Skillsoft

According to the 2024 Dice Tech Salary Report that translates into women taking home an average of $15,000 less annually than their male counterparts.

US government statistics back up Dice’s findings. Regardless of whether they have a post-secondary certificate or graduated from a top-tier university, women in general make only 71 cents on the dollar compared with men at the same education level, according to US Census Bureau research.

“The dataset allows us to examine labor market outcomes up to 15 years following graduation,” Census Bureau economist and co-author Ariel Binder wrote in the report. “Research has shown that the gender pay gap increases substantially during this time and is relatively stable thereafter. This heterogeneity in gap levels and mechanisms is especially large in the first decade following graduation.”

The gender gap issue is not isolated to the US. In 2023, one in three women in the UK were planning to leave their tech job, according to a report  by Tech Talent Charter, a tech industry group. That study was based on 700 organizations across the UK, spanning 90 industries and accounting for 230,000 tech employees. 

According to Tech Talent Charter, just 29% of UK tech employees are women; one in four women who left a tech job in recent years left for a non-tech position— and only one in six women who’d been in their tech role for more than a year planned to stay.

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The tech industry and micro aggressions

Although women are broadly underrepresented in corporate America, the talent pipeline varies by industry. Of 10 industries studied by professional services firm McKinsey & Co., tech industries struggle the most to attract women for entry-level jobs.

“Micro aggressions are a form of everyday discrimination that is often rooted in bias. They include comments and actions — even subtle ones that are not overtly harmful — that demean or dismiss someone based on their gender, race, or other aspects of their identity,” McKinsey & Co.’s Women in the Workplace 2023 report said. “They signal disrespect, cause acute stress, and can negatively impact women’s careers and health.”

Only 28% of C-suite positions are held by women in tech fields and just 30% are senior vice presidents. Additionally, 35% and 29% are managers or senior managers, respectively, according to McKinsey & Co.

Women are also twice as likely to be mistaken for someone junior and hear comments on their emotional state. For women with traditionally marginalized identities, these slights happen more often and are even more demeaning. As one example, Asian and Black women are seven times more likely than White women to be confused with someone of the same race and ethnicity, according to McKinsey & Co.

“The word I’d use to describe promotions is ‘struggle,’” said one female media supervisor interviewed by McKinsey. “I personally have seen people that look like me continue to be overlooked for promotions. We have to work two to five times harder to get a promotion. In my seven years here, I’ve been promoted multiple times. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears on my end and me raising a concern as to why there aren’t more people that look like me represented in the leadership team.”

Studies have found that companies with greater gender equity have a 48% higher chance of outperforming companies with a gender imbalance. 

What companies can do to reverse the trend

Failing to promote and retain women in technical roles who are in the early stages of their careers leads to fewer women being prepared for senior roles. While that might seem obvious, most of the leaders McKinsey interviewed for its study acknowledged their companies have “uneven early-promotions processes that perpetuate the broken rung on the career ladder for women in technical roles.”

“Few said that their companies had begun to monitor the advancement of women in these roles during the first five years after they are hired,” the McKinsey study said.

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Only two of the 40 corporate leaders McKinsey & Co. spoke with said that their organizations do not have a broken-rung problem. “Both [leaders] work for large, Fortune 100 technology companies that have invested heavily in highly structured, clear, and transparent systems, with well-defined skills criteria for each role and level. Both companies have developed extensive manager training programs, built accountability into their processes, and set clear bars for when the first two promotions should be expected,” the study said.

Successful early-tenure promotions for women in tech roles rely on three reinforcing enablers, according to McKinsey:

  • Providing information about the skills and competencies required to advance.
  • Having support in the form of mentors, sponsors and role models.
  • Creating an organizational structure with policies, practices and processes that ensure all employees have an equal shot at early promotions. 

Companies should also provide equal access to training, projects, and other resources to accelerate skills building for women in tech roles. More than one-in-three women (36%) in tech say they have improved skills by earning certifications, according to the Skillsoft survey. Half of respondents say they’re more confident with certifications, and a third say they helped build trust and credibility among colleagues.

Certifications and skills have become more prominent indicators of career success, with many companies in recent years abandoning their requirement for university degrees in favor of a more flexible skillset.

Employees at the companies with organizational policies and practices enabling upward mobility check with managers frequently to ensure they have access to projects that can help them gain the skills they need to advance. And when employees don’t advance in the projected timelines, senior leaders follow up to understand why. 

Additionally, early-tenure promotions are decided by committee rather than by individuals, and bias checks are integrated into the process. For example, one interviewee mentioned a company rule that employees must work full-time for seven months or more within a calendar year before being considered for promotion. 

“Because these companies set expectations in which everyone must advance within a specified time, they are effectively aiming for 100% participation in early-tenure promotions,” McKinsey said.

IT Skills, Technology Industry, Women in IT

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