We consistently see and hear about a shortage of tech talent in the news. This issue is growing, as the need for tech talent far surpasses the available supply chain. In fact, a recent global report from Gartner states that IT executives list IT talent shortages as the most significant barrier to adopting 64% of emerging technologies, ahead of cost and security. This is a staggering increase from only 4% in 2020.
As an industry, this tech talent gap will negatively impact innovation, adoption, and ultimately our ability to compete in an increasingly tech-first world. Now, let me just say, there are plenty of people with more expertise than this analyst on fixing our education systems, job journeys, and STEM issues overall. However, as a female in the industry, I can’t help but think that there is one simple element we could start to work on right now to help: keeping women in our industry.
Important Statistics for Women in Tech
Let’s look at a few statistics to shed some light on the causes and effects of the gender gap in the technology industry and why, if we perhaps focused some attention on this issue, we could at least conserve more talent in our industry.
- Only 24% of computing jobs are held by women. With such a low percentage of women in tech, we have no women to spare in the industry
- These very same women, already in short supply, are leaving the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men.
- Women in tech also report facing more burnout than their male colleagues during the pandemic. A report from TrustRadius showed that 57% of women surveyed said they experienced more burnout than normal during the pandemic, compared to 36% of men who felt the same.
- When surveyed by JS Group in May of 2022 63% of women said they felt a declining sense of belonging in the tech industry and 44% believed their prospects for success had further diminished over the same time the year prior.
- In 1984, 35% of tech roles were held by women. In 2018, 32% were held by women. Now, in 2022, the forecast is even lower. This declining trend is a symptom of the change in our overall talent management systems. We are making it simply too hard to be a woman in technology. Period.
Sources: TrustRadius.com, JS Group, Zippia.com, Gartner.com
The reality for many women is that while we made progress in business, we lost most of that momentum in tech leading up to and during the pandemic. The boundaries between our personal lives and work have all but collapsed now that remote technology is here to stay. The expectation by many firms is that if you are in a tech role, you are expected to be “always on.”
In a recent Deloitte study of 500 women in tech, only 22% said that their employer has been clear that they are not expected to be always on. This leaves a whopping 78% of firms in this survey anticipating that we will be on 24/7. Well, that equation just doesn’t work very well for many women, and hence why this analyst believes we are seeing record drops of women in technology.
Three-Point Discussion Plan to Empower Women in Tech
So, the burning question then is how do we reverse this trend? Here’s my start at a three-point discussion plan that I would recommend leaders in technology start the conversation with to determine how we can better understand the issues and solve them. I will be ongoingly adding more to the discussion starters and debate about how to get women to stay in our industry as we march through this crisis together. But for now, let’s start with these:
- What have you done to make women feel welcome and included in your company, industry, or association?
- Having an ERG group for women or a women’s conference is not acceptable an answer. We need to STOP separating the women from the men to have these discussions and start including more men in the solution ideation.
- If your idea of team bonding includes a golf tournament, football, or other sporting activity, or competition of some sort, then you are also barking up the wrong tree. These are activities designed to favor men.
- If you regularly schedule early morning or late evening meetings for critical discussions, then it’s also are not helping. Women are three times more likely to be a caretaker than a man. This scheduling simply creates stress that isn’t needed.
- How do you manage the IT career development journey in your company?
- Women are less likely to apply for roles where they don’t have 100% of the skills compared to men who are more likely to apply, even if they have only a handful of the needed skills. How do you manage that and encourage women to reach for promotions?
- What are your early warning signs for the women in IT in your firm that they may not be progressing on the right development path?
- What opportunities are available to gain exposure and experience with leadership in your firm?
- What do you do to avoid burnout and stress on your IT team?
- Do you have flexible job arrangements available for those who are caretakers or have other competing priorities that may make certain work hours difficult for them?
- How much of the “eligible” vacation time women are entitled to have been taken for caretaking or other responsibilities vs. a real vacation?
- Do you talk about work-life integration on a regular basis and look for signs that this is failing in your IT team?
Bonus discussion: Why does your IT team always have to be one when there are machines that can now monitor, react, and respond to most real-time issues? Are you not using the right technology to take the stress off your IT org?
As a leader, you owe it to your organization to challenge the issues that women are having in technology and find a way to fix them. Not at the macro industry level — let’s leave that to the STEM experts — but at the micro level in your organization, department, or team. By addressing the issues, having tough discussions, and making some resultant changes, you can solve the talent shortage by attracting and retaining more women. And who knows, maybe others will see your success and follow. That’s the definition of a grassroots movement, and frankly, it’s what we need to see happen now. Let’s do this!
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