Nearly a third of women in tech jobs are considering leaving



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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.

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.

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.



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