We're Not Trying Hard Enough to Improve Tech's Persistent Gender and Inclusion Problems - Webnames Blog

We’re Not Trying Hard Enough to Improve Tech’s Persistent Gender and Inclusion Problems

As a woman CEO who has led a technology company for more than 20-years in Canada, I’ve witnessed the immense contributions that women bring to the tech industry first hand, including technological innovation, increased revenue generation, less biased product development and higher workplace satisfaction.  These contributions deserve ongoing recognition, not only on occasions such as International Women’s Day. 

Despite the contributions of women, the tech industry remains inhospitable to many women still. A study published by Women Tech Network this year shows that 72% of women in tech report experiencing a “bro culture” at work, indicating enduring gender discrimination. The same study found that 57% of women in Technology, Media, and Telecom (TMT) planned to leave their jobs within two years, citing poor work/life balance. This finding was echoed by University of Tennessee research that found more than 50% of women working in tech are likely to quit before the age of 35, and 56% by midcareer.

With this year’s International Women’s Day theme being #inspireinclusion, it would be nice to celebrate emerging gains like a decrease in hiring bias and how salary transparency laws are slowly chipping away at the gender pay gap in tech. However, it feels somewhat disingenuous when women in Canadian tech jobs who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher continue to earn nearly $20,000 less a year than their male counterparts. Moreover, the gap further increases for women of colour and as women accumulate more work experience. 

Study after study underscores the need for greater efforts to support women in technology careers, not merely so their careers can advance, but so they don’t leave the field altogether taking their valuable experience with them. The gender brain drain in technology is persistent and detrimental with more than a third (36.2%) of women leaving not planning on re-entering the tech world, the most cited reasons being lack of advancement opportunities, dissatisfaction with their career development, gender bias, challenges managing caring commitments, and unsupportive work environments. 

We’ve long known the changes that need to be made to retain women in tech. There’s decades of research telling founders and CEO’s, like myself, about the changes we need to make to increase inclusion and equity, for starters: providing professional development opportunities and structured pathways for career progression; offering flexible work schedules that better accommodate caring commitments; conducting pay audits to identify and rectify gender pay gaps; and implementing unbiased hiring practices and inclusive recruitment strategies. Additionally, we must expand the number of women in senior leadership roles with momentum because it positively impacts female employee engagement and retention, improves workplace culture and increases the likelihood of equal pay in organizations.

In my own company, we’ve worked hard over the years to implement these changes not only because it benefits our women employees and it is the right thing to do, but also because it improves the wellbeing of our entire organizational ecosystem: employees, their families, clients, suppliers. Among our women employees, flexibility has been especially important. We have been able to retain women longterm in our company through periods of family change and caregiving obligations, time away for education, recruitment from other firms and the pandemic by supporting models of work-life integration determined by them. Not only has this increased work satisfaction, it benefits creativity and performance by helping to alleviate the pressure and burnout so many women experience trying to meet the demands of work, personal/familial obligations, and caring for their own physical and mental health because so much depends on their stability. 

Leaders in the tech industry have a responsibility to create inclusive work cultures and improve gender equity not only because diverse representation provides access to skillsets, creativity, approaches and experiences that unequivocally benefit business performance and bottom lines, but because it contributes to a more equitable, inclusive, just and safe society for everyone. Let’s commit to “inspire inclusion” being not merely a slogan, but an action and guiding principle for bringing women back into tech with the flexibility, access to opportunities and support that they need to innovate, excel and lead.

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