According to a recent report by Girls Who Code, only 24% of computing jobs are held by women. This is despite the fact that women make up 47% of the overall workforce in the United States. This gender gap in technology is not only a missed opportunity for women but also a loss for the industry. This is because diverse teams have been shown to outperform homogeneous ones. Women in tech face a range of challenges, including gender bias, stereotyping, lack of representation, and unequal pay.
This article will explore these challenges in detail and provide strategies for how women in tech can overcome them. It is essential that we work together to create a more equitable and diverse industry, not only for women but for all underrepresented groups.
Why the World Should Care about Women in Tech and Their Challenges – the Rational Explanation.
It is undeniable that the tech industry is a male-dominated field. And few might argue – “Let it be the way it is. The code doesn't care who wrote it, the project doesn't care who led it, and decisions don't care who took them. So why do we need more women in tech?”
Here are the top 5 reasons why we should care about women in tech:
- Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, a study by McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.
- A report by AnitaB.org, a non-profit organization focused on advancing women in technology, found that companies with more gender diversity in technical roles had higher levels of innovation. The report also states that companies with a more balanced gender ratio in technical roles have improved operational and financial performance, better problem-solving, and enhanced company reputation.
- Women bring unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table, which can help technology companies better understand and meet the needs of their diverse customers. Additionally, women have been shown to excel in skills such as communication, collaboration, and empathy, which are essential for successful team dynamics and effective leadership in the tech industry.
- Lack of gender diversity in the tech industry can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and biases within the industry and in the products and services that tech companies produce. By increasing the representation of women in tech, we can help to combat these stereotypes and biases and create more inclusive and equitable products and services.
- Addressing the gender gap in tech can help promote gender equality and empower women in other fields. For example, women who work in tech can serve as role models and mentors for other women who are interested in pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated fields.
Overall, increasing the representation of women in tech can lead to more innovation, better decision-making, profit, and more tremendous success for technology companies.
Challenges Faced by Women in Tech
1. Pay Disparity in the Tech Industry
The biggest myth that people live by is that there is no pay disparity in tech based on gender. And the saddest part is that people justify this pay disparity with logic. Some arguments say: Roles, working hours, skills-set, experience, or efficiency might differ and as a consequence women might get paid less than men. However, enough research and studies show it's not uncommon for women in the tech industry to experience pay disparities compared to their male counterparts.
According to a study by Hired, a marketplace for tech talent, women in tech earn 3% less than men on average. Additionally, women who apply for tech jobs are offered lower salaries than men 63% of the time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women’s annual earnings were 82.3% of men’s earnings in 2020. The salary gap is even wider for women of color. Moreover, 78% of large companies admitted to having a male-female pay gap in tech.
The gender pay gap is even wider for certain positions. For example, female data scientists earn nearly 20% less than male data scientists and men earn 7% more than women in product management 🤯.
These statistics clearly show that the pay disparity in the tech industry is a significant issue, and it's crucial to take steps to address it. And sometimes this equal pay is not even conscious but stems from subconscious beliefs that men perform better in tech roles.
Companies must examine their pay structures and make changes to ensure that all employees, regardless of gender, are paid fairly. Also, employees have to raise their voices and show their concern if they find out they are getting paid less solely based on their gender.
2. Being the Only Woman in the Room
One of the biggest challenges for women in tech is being the only woman in their workplace or on their team. Some people may not even consider it an issue. Or a question may pop up: How is being the only woman in the room challenging? The following reasons explain why being the only woman in a room is challenging:
- Feeling Isolated: This can lead to feelings of isolation and a sense of not belonging, which can be incredibly demotivating.
- The constant need to prove competence: When women are the only ones in a room of predominantly male colleagues, it can be challenging to feel like they belong. They may feel like they have to constantly prove their competence and justify their presence, which can be exhausting and detrimental to their confidence.
- Emotional labor: Women in tech may be expected to take on more emotional labor than their male colleagues, such as managing team dynamics and resolving conflicts. This can be particularly challenging when they are the only ones in the room. This is because they may feel like they have to represent all women in tech and be a spokesperson for their gender. This can be emotionally taxing and distracting, removing their ability to focus on their work.
Women's mental well-being can be adversely affected by these challenges. Therefore, it is crucial to inspire and support young girls in pursuing their interests in technology by providing them with the necessary resources and opportunities. To accomplish this, we should establish outreach programs, hackathons, and coding clubs specifically tailored for girls. By doing so, we can promote gender diversity in the tech industry and create a more inclusive environment for women.
3. Fighting Stereotypes
Women in tech often face gender stereotypes and biases that can make it difficult for them to advance in their careers. These stereotypes can lead to many challenges for women, including:
- Most people consider women to be less technically proficient than men and more suited to non-technical or soft roles.
- Women may also be passed over for leadership roles because of assumptions about their family or caregiving responsibilities.
- Women who are working mothers face additional challenges, including delayed promotion because of maternity leave, a lack of salary increases or bonuses due to pregnancy, and even the risk of being fired after returning from maternity leave.
- They may also face bias and interrogation when taking maternity leave. This includes being expected to justify their leave or being assumed to be less efficient at work after becoming a mother.
Nikita Gupta, a co-founder of Careerflow, has shared her personal story of facing persistent questioning about her career choices from her family and society. She had to repeatedly justify her decision to study Mathematics and Science, followed by Engineering, and ultimately, to pursue a career in the tech industry. Such ongoing conversations within families can often create an unwarranted perception that women are not well-suited to the tech field. Girls often face such gendered messaging from an early age that can discourage them from pursuing tech careers.
Also, these unconscious biases can impact hiring practices, promotion opportunities, and workplace culture. To fight these stereotypes, it's important to address unconscious bias and create a culture of inclusivity in the workplace. This can be achieved by creating diverse hiring panels and promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company.
4. Lack of Representation
Women hold only 26.7% of tech-related jobs, about 25% of leadership positions in tech, and 14% of software engineering positions.
The tech industry suffers from a significant lack of representation of women, making it a daunting challenge for women embarking on their careers to find role models. In the absence of female leaders within their company or circle who can serve as an inspiration and offer guidance, it can be difficult for women to visualize themselves in leadership roles or to identify a clear path for career progression. The absence of visible examples of successful women in these roles can cause women to doubt their abilities and feel like they don't fit in.
Moreover, the dearth of role models can impede their search for mentors or advocates who can provide valuable career guidance and support. It is therefore crucial to increase female representation in the tech industry and provide women with the necessary role models and guidance to help them thrive and succeed.
One powerful way to fight this challenge is to highlight top women in tech who have contributed to the technology field throughout history. From Ada Lovelace, the world's first computer programmer, to Grace Hopper, who invented the first compiler, to contemporary pioneers like Sheryl Sandberg and Ginni Rometty, women have played a vital role in shaping the tech industry. Mira Murati, the Chief Technology Officer of OpenAI, is another exemplary innovator in the field of technology and a shining example of a successful woman in tech. OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has revolutionized the artificial intelligence industry, and Murati's leadership and expertise have been instrumental in driving the product's success.
By celebrating these contributions, we can challenge the idea that women don't belong in tech, and inspire future generations of women to pursue careers in the field.
5. Often Taken for Granted
Women in tech often face microaggressions, which are subtle and often unintentional acts of discrimination. These can include being interrupted or talked over in meetings, dismissing their ideas, or being subjected to inappropriate comments or behavior.
According to Hired research on 2,400 job candidates, ¾ female respondents said they experienced discrimination in the form of an inability to be taken seriously by company leadership. This sort of discrimination manifests itself in many forms:
- Being talked over or interrupted in meetings: Women are often interrupted or talked over in meetings, even when they are trying to contribute to the discussion. This can lead to a sense of frustration and exclusion and can make it difficult for women to share their ideas and expertise.
- Being subjected to inappropriate comments or behavior: Women may also be subjected to inappropriate comments or behavior, such as sexist jokes. This type of behavior can create a hostile work environment and can make women feel unsafe or uncomfortable at work.
- Feeling like they don't belong: Finally, women in tech may feel like they don't belong in a male-dominated industry, which can lead to feelings of isolation and imposter syndrome. This can make it difficult for women to network, find mentors, and advance in their careers.
Overall, microaggressions can be incredibly damaging to women in tech, both personally and professionally. It's important for companies to take steps to address these issues, such as implementing diversity and inclusion training, creating safe reporting mechanisms for incidents of discrimination, and actively working to promote and support women in tech.
How to Overcome These Challenges?
The first step towards solving any problem is to accept the existence of the problem. Thus, we are halfway through recognizing the challenges faced by women in tech and now it’s time to understand how, together, we can help women overcome these challenges. The issues and challenges we discussed above are not just the responsibility of one section of society. Instead, they need to be addressed at all organizational, societal, governmental, and individual levels. However, if you are a woman in tech or a woman aspiring to enter the tech industry, below are a few strategies you can adopt to overcome these challenges.
1. Develop a Support System
One of the most effective ways to overcome the challenges faced by women in tech is to build a support system.
- This can include finding a mentor who can provide guidance and advice, as well as seeking out other women in your field who can offer empathy and understanding. They can provide guidance and support and help you develop strategies for addressing the issues you are facing. Find out more about the importance of mentoring in your career in our detailed guide - The Importance of Mentoring.
- Consider joining professional groups where you can connect with others who share their experiences and challenges. These groups could be found online on platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter and through offline events or conferences where you can meet others who share common interests and goals.
- Reach out to colleagues or acquaintances who you admire or respect. They can also provide you with valuable resources and advice for navigating challenges and advancing in your career.
Once you've connected with people in your field, be sure to maintain those relationships over time. Check in with your mentors regularly, and seek out opportunities to collaborate or work together on projects. By building a strong support system, you can overcome many of the challenges that women in tech face and achieve greater success in your career.
2. Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits at the Beginning
As we discussed in the last section, women in tech often face pay disparities and may not receive the same salary and benefits as their male counterparts.
Negotiating your salary and benefits at the beginning is a crucial step to ensure that you are being compensated fairly for your skills and experience. Here are a few things you can do to achieve that:
- Do your research 🧑💻and have a clear understanding of the market rate for your position. You can use online resources like Glassdoor, levels.fyi, and Payscale to gain an idea of what other people in similar roles are earning. It's also a wise idea to talk to colleagues or industry contacts to get a sense of what the industry standard is. And if you feel underpaid because of your gender speak out, and if necessary, move out.
- When negotiating, it's also important to focus on your value and what you bring to the table. Be confident and assertive in your approach, and be prepared to make a case for why you deserve a higher salary or better benefits. Be willing to negotiate and compromise, but don't settle for less than you're worth.
- It's also important to consider benefits beyond salary, such as flexible work arrangements, work hours, work-from-home policies, professional development opportunities, and equity or stock options. These can add significant value to your compensation package and improve overall job satisfaction.
- It's critical to continue advocating for yourself throughout your career. Don't be afraid to ask for raises or promotions when you feel you have earned them. Be willing to walk away from opportunities that don't meet your needs or expectations.
3. Join Professional Groups and Communities
Look for professional associations and networking groups that focus on supporting women in tech. Some of these are:
- Women Who Code - A global non-profit organization dedicated to helping women excel in technology careers.
- Girls Who Code - A non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology by teaching young girls to code.
- AnitaB.org - A global organization dedicated to promoting women in technology and increasing their representation in the industry.
- Women Techmakers - A global program initiated by Google to provide visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.
- Tech Ladies - A community that connects women in technology with job opportunities, resources, and events.
- Women in Data Science (WiDS) - A global community that aims to inspire and educate women in the field of data science, as well as promote gender diversity in the field.
Women in technology can enhance their presence in the industry and pave the way for more diversity and representation by becoming a part of tech communities. These communities offer a plethora of advantages. They equip them with valuable insights through comprehensive reports and surveys to aid in selecting the most suitable organizations for their careers. They can also provide support in interview preparation and facilitate job opportunities that align with their aspirations. In short, joining these communities can be a game-changer for women looking to thrive in the tech world.
4. Advocate for Yourself
One way to overcome the challenges faced by women in tech is that women start standing up for themselves and addressing gender bias and discrimination in the workplace. Here are some specific strategies one can use:
- Speak up: If you experience bias or discrimination in the workplace, speak up about it. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it's important to let your colleagues, managers, or recruiters know when their behavior is unacceptable. Be clear and specific about what happened, how it made you feel, and what you would like to see happen as a result.
- Find allies: It can be helpful to find allies in the workplace who can support you. This can be other tech women or men committed to gender equity and inclusion. Having a support system can help you feel less isolated and more empowered.
- Educate yourself and others: Educating yourself and others about gender bias and discrimination can help raise awareness and create a more inclusive workplace culture. This could include reading articles and books on the topic, attending workshops or training, or sharing resources with your colleagues.
Overall, advocating for yourself and addressing gender bias and discrimination in the workplace can be challenging. However, it's a crucial step toward creating a more inclusive and equitable tech industry. By speaking up, documenting incidents, finding allies, educating yourself and others, and seeking out mentors, you can help create positive change and overcome the challenges faced by women in tech.
Still, in 2023, women faced a number of challenges in the tech industry. However, we can’t ignore the fact that we have seen a number of initiatives to bridge the gap. There is still a long way to go, but together we can make this happen 🙂
We are aiming to create a world where companies shouldn’t be rushing out there to recruit female engineers just for the sake of achieving ideal numbers for the company. Instead, if they decide to hire skilled engineers, product managers, and data scientists there should be a high probability that it turns out to be women. While we aren’t saying women should simply be promoted to leadership roles because there are very few women in top positions, we are encouraging the creation of a world where women face fewer or no hurdles to make their way to top positions because of their gender. We have to create an environment where women are naturally excited and encouraged about job opportunities in tech.
Thus, the gender of a candidate should never be a deciding factor in the selection of a role. The tech industry must strive to create a workplace that is diverse and inclusive, accommodating individuals of all genders, to achieve success.