According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021, women make up just 14% of the workforce in cloud computing, 20% in engineering, and 32% in data and AI.
In fact, the ratio of women to men in tech roles has declined in the past 35 years, with half of women who go into tech dropping out by the age of 35, according to data from Accenture. The study attributes much of this decline to a lack of inclusivity for women in the industry.
Over the past decade, women’s exclusion from the digital sphere has shaved $1 trillion off the GDP of low- and middle-income countries.
Today, women remain a minority in both STEM education and careers, representing only 28 per cent of engineering graduates, 22 per cent of artificial intelligence workers and less than one third of tech sector employees globally. Without equal representation in these fields, women’s participation in shaping technology, research, investments and policy will remain critically limited. The same challenges apply to their access to fast-growing and high-paying careers—an inequality compounded by the fact that, as tech and digital innovation disrupt industries, women will bear the brunt of job losses.
Stereotypes about who is, and isn’t, well suited to STEM play a major role in discouraging girls from entering these fields. These beliefs become a self-perpetuating cycle: without encouragement in tech fields, girls end up lacking necessary knowledge—thus making them less likely to express interest.
Women also face more barriers to promotion and career growth. A 2022 report from McKinsey found that only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men across every industry, but when isolated for tech, that number drops to 52 women for every 100 men. Women who work in more inclusive environments are 61% more likely to advance to management level, while that number jumps to 77% for women of color, according to data from Accenture. Men are even 15% more likely to get promoted to a management position when working in a more-inclusive environment.
According to data from the National Science Foundation, more women than ever are earning STEM degrees — and they are catching up to men in earning bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering (S&E) subjects. But isolated by field of study, women earned only 18% of computer science degrees at the bachelor level in 2021, having peaked at 37% in 1984, according to Zippia. Recent data from Accenture shows that as of 2022, only 25% of tech graduates are women, with a dropout rate of 37% for tech classes compared to just 30% for other programs. Still, while women are less represented in undergrad CS departments, those who do pursue computer science degrees are more likely to pursue an advanced degree, with the percentage of master’s degrees in computer science earned by women rising to 31% in 2016, up from 28% in 1997. Workplace culture also plays a role in women’s uphill battle in IT. According to a Pew Research Center report, 50% of women said they had experienced gender discrimination at work, while only 19% of men said the same. The numbers were even higher for women with a postgraduate degree (62%), working in computer jobs (74%), or in male-dominated workplaces (78%). When asked whether their gender made it harder to succeed at work, 20% of women said yes and 36% said sexual harassment is a problem in their workplace.
In addition to increasing the likelihood of gender-related discrimination against women, male-dominated workplaces pay less attention to gender diversity (43%) and cause women to feel a need to prove themselves all or some of the time (79%), according to Pew’s research. As a comparison, only 44% of women working in environments with a better gender-diversity balance said they experienced gender-related discrimination at work, 15% felt their organization paid “too little” attention to gender diversity, and 52% said they felt a need to prove themselves.
Women of color face more significant challenges in the tech industry — and they are greatly underrepresented. While a total of 27% of computing roles are held by women, only 3% and 2% are held by Black and Hispanic women, respectively, according to Accenture. Out of 390 women of color in tech surveyed, only 8% said it is “easy” for them to thrive, compared to 21% of all women. In less-inclusive company cultures, 62% of women of colour say they’ve experienced “inappropriate remarks or comments,” a number that drops to 14% for inclusive cultures.
LBT women face similar barriers, with only 9% of LBT women IT workers reporting that it’s “easy” to thrive in tech, while 23% of non-LBT women say the same. LBT tech workers also face higher rates of experiencing public humiliation or embarrassment (24%) or bullying (20%) in the workplace. The survey found that 83% of LBT women working in more-inclusive cultures reported “loving” their jobs and 85% describe their workplace environment as “empowering,” compared to 35% and 20%, respectively, in less-inclusive environments. Similarly, LBT women in less-inclusive cultures were half as likely to say they experienced inappropriate remarks or comments, were made to feel that the job was not for “people like them.”
The pandemic has also left women less likely to ask for a raise or a promotion, compared to their male colleagues. In a report from Indeed, surveying 2,000 tech workers, 67% of male respondents said they would be comfortable asking for a raise in the next month and for a promotion. But only 52% of women said they’d be comfortable asking for a raise and 54% said they’d be comfortable asking for a promotion. Women were also less likely to say they felt comfortable asking for flexibility around work location, schedule, or hours than their male counterparts. As the study points out, if women feel discouraged from asking for a raise, while their male colleagues are comfortable doing so, that could lead to widening the gender pay gap in the tech industry even more.
The businesswoman and peer Martha Lane Fox has criticised the lack of gender diversity in the UK technology industry, saying it has not progressed in 25 years.
Lady Lane-Fox of Soho shot to prominence in the late 1990s as the co-founder of Lastminute.com, a travel booking website that became one of the symbols of the UK’s 1990s internet boom. However, she said many of the same issues she had experienced then are still prevalent in the tech industry.
“I never imagined that now in 2022, some of the dynamics of the industry that I was enjoying building my business in would still be so terrible,” she said, in a speech at an event held by WorkL, a company that works with businesses to track employee welfare.
The technology industry has long failed to hire enough women, and misogyny is still endemic in online culture. Only 21% of IT professionals and 12.5% of engineers were women, compared with more than half the population, in a survey for the Wise campaign.
Here at Hire STEM Women we advocating to hire more women in technology, get in touch with us now to find out more on how we are tackling the gender diversity battle in technology.