Women in IT

Women in tech statistics: The hard truths of an uphill battle

Despite national conversations about gender diversity in tech, women are still underrepresented, underpaid and often discriminated against in the tech industry, numbers show.

Women in tech statistics: The hard truths of an uphill battle
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Women in IT

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Diversity is critical in tech, as it enables companies to create better and safer products that take everyone into consideration, not just one section of society. A report from McKinsey found that diverse companies perform better, hire better talent, have more engaged employees and retain workers better than companies that do not focus on diversity and inclusion. Despite this, women remain widely underrepresented in IT roles.

Statistics from the following seven facets of IT work, ranging from higher education to workplace environment, paint a clear picture of the challenges women face in finding equal footing in a career in IT.

The employment gap

Women make up 47 percent of all employed adults in the U.S., but as of 2015, they hold only 25 percent of computing roles, according to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Of the 25 percent of women working in tech, Asian women make up just 5 percent of that number, while black and Hispanic women accounted for 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively. All this despite the fact that the growth of STEM jobs has outpaced the growth of overall employment in the country, growing 79 percent since 1990 while overall employment has grown 34 percent, according to data from Pew Research Center. Despite national conversations about the lack of diversity in tech, women are disproportionally missing out on this boom.

The degree gap

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 when you isolate by field of study, women earned only 19 percent of computer science degrees at the bachelor level in 2016, compared to 27 percent in 1997. Still, while women are less represented in undergrad CS departments, those who do pursue computer science degrees are more likely to dive more deeply these days, as the percentage of master’s degrees in computer science earned by women rose to 31 percent in 2016, up from 28 percent in 1997.

The retention gap

Once a diploma is earned, the real work begins, and here the numbers for women in tech are perhaps even more troubling. Only 38 percent of women who majored in computer science are working in the field compared to 53 percent of men, according to data from the National Science Foundation. Similarly, only 24 percent of women with an engineering degree still work in engineering, compared to 30 percent of men. This is a consistent trend that has been dubbed a “leaky pipeline,” where it’s difficult to retain women in STEM jobs once they’ve graduated with a STEM degree.

Workplace culture gap

Women aren’t entering technology jobs at the same rate as men — and one reason can be traced back to male-dominated workplaces. A 2017 poll in the Pew Research Center report found that 50 percent of women said they had experienced gender discrimination at work, while only 19 percent 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 percent of women said yes and 36 percent 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 2017 research. As a comparison, only 44 percent of women working in environments with a better gender-diversity balance said they experienced gender-related discrimination at work, 15 percent felt their organization paid “too little” attention to gender diversity and 52 percent said they felt a need to prove themselves.

While these numbers show there is still work to do, it’s clear that women working on more gender-diverse teams were less likely to perceive gender inequalities at work. They were less likely to feel their organization would overlook them for an opportunity or promotion and were less likely to feel as if their gender got in the way of their corporate success. Women working in male-dominated environments were more likely to report higher rates of gender discrimination and hostile work environments.

The founder gap

Startups are known for unconventional work environments, but women still struggle there — especially if they’re the founder.

Only one in four startups have a female founder, 37 percent have at least one woman on the board of directors and 53 percent have at least one woman in an executive position, according to a study from Silicon Valley Bank. And the founder’s gender has a direct impact on gender diversity, the study found. For startups with at least one female founder, 50 percent had a female CEO compared to just 5 percent for companies with no female founder.

Worse, startups with at least one female founder reported more difficulty finding funding, with 87 percent saying it was “somewhat or extremely challenging,” while only 78 percent of startups with no female founder said the same.

The pay gap

Women are not only underrepresented in STEM, they are also underpaid — and that hasn’t changed in over 25 years. Despite the fact that STEM workers typically earn significantly more than those in non-STEM fields, the gender gap is still wider in STEM occupations than in non-STEM occupations, according to Pew Research Center. For computing fields, women earn 87 percent of what men earn. The numbers are even worse for black women in STEM who earn around 87 percent of white women’s salaries and just 62 percent of what men earn.

Women are also more concerned with compensation, according to a 2019 report on Women in Technology from IDC. There’s a myth that women are preoccupied with benefits and flexibility, but 52 percent of women care about compensation and pay compared to 33 percent of men. Additionally, 75 percent of men believe their employer offers equal pay while only 42 percent of women say the same.

IT leadership

According to IDC, the percentage of women in senior leadership positions grew from 21 percent to 24 percent between 2018 and 2019. And that’s good news, because having women in senior leadership positions can positively impact female employee engagement and retention. In organizations where 50 percent or more senior leadership positions are held by women, they’re more likely to offer equal pay and female employees are more likely to stay with the company longer than a year, report higher job satisfaction and feel the company is trustworthy.

Although these statistics are trending upward, women still feel less enthusiastic about their senior leadership prospects than men. The report found that 54 percent of men said they felt it was likely that they’d be promoted to executive management in their company. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of women said the same, noting a lack of support, self-confidence and mentorship as well as feeling the need to “prove themselves more than men to get promoted.” 

This story, "Women in tech statistics: The hard truths of an uphill battle" was originally published by CIO.

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