How women at the top of IT excel — despite all the hurdles in getting there
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How women at the top of IT excel — despite all the hurdles in getting there

Rae Ritchie — March 2020

A flow of research over the past year shows that women in senior IT roles are both fulfilled in their career and (sometimes) better paid than their male counterparts — even as major gender barriers and biases persist.

Most women working in IT remain in the profession because they believe they are good at their jobs despite a catalog of obstacles that might deter them at various stages.

To celebrate 2020’s International Women’s Day on March 8, we survey the recent research that shows a mix of progress and persistent barriers that still make pursuing and sustaining a career in technology a challenge for women.

• Feel-good factors
Women who carve out a successful career in IT typically have a highly positive self-image. A survey of 250 women by YouGov for US financial services company Capital One found that 56% who have reached senior roles after eight or more years in the profession highlighted a perception that they were particularly good at their jobs as the top reason for staying. Other reasons cited were equally positive: working with other technologists (44%), the nature of the work itself (43%), fair and good compensation (41%) and flexibility to achieve work-life balance (39%).

However, even among these committed high achievers, almost three-quarters had considered leaving technology at some point for various reasons: 27% mentioning limited opportunity for advancement, 25% unfair compensation compared to peers and 22% a lack of support from management.

The survey also canvassed 200 women who had left the industry, finding weak management support (23%) a lack of opportunity (20%) and poor work-life balance (22%) were factors.

• Workforce shortfall
On average across G7 countries, women account for only 30% of the tech workforce. According to PwC’s Women in Technology Index, Canada is the best performing country within the G7 in terms of gender representation and equality in the tech sector, with France in second place.

• Career constraints   
A survey by Women in Tech UK highlighted some of the reasons for the industry’s ongoing gender gap, which manifests itself in a male/female split of between 70/30 and 80/20 across different regions, sectors and job levels. Factors deterring women from a career in technology included fewer opportunities for senior roles/promotion (22%), male domination of the work environment (20%), recruitment processes that favored men (12%) and lower pay than male colleagues in the same role (7%). Indeed, just 2% of the 1,000 surveyed believe that the technology sector is equal: three-quarters point to a gender pay gap and more than half said they have experienced gender bias or discrimination in the workplace.

• EARNING more
Recruitment firm Michael Page says that when women do reach senior roles they are often better paid than men — at least in the UK. Research based on the head of technology role across 2016-18 found women were paid an average of £78,600 ($102,200), compared with £75,000 ($97,500) for men. When they do get interviewed, women are also slightly more likely to get the job. While women only accounted for 22% of the candidates put forward for such roles, 24% of those hired were women.

• Held back
In a survey of more than 800 women about their experiences of working in the tech industry, 53% stated that they are not taken seriously enough in the workplace — although that figure was down by 10% on year-earlier research. The survey, by IT service and security management company Ivanti, also reveals that almost one-third of respondents perceive a glass ceiling. Respondents blame employers, with 44% reporting that companies are failing to adequately attract and retain female talent.

Almost two-thirds stated that equality in pay and benefits is the main factor that would attract them to a new role, while other respondents pointed to greater availability of flexible working policies (51%) and greater support for part-time work in management positions (33%).  Meanwhile, 62% stated that stereotypes still favour men in leadership roles and that men and women in similar roles are judged by different criteria.

First published March 2020
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