Women in Tech Statistics for 2020 (and How We Can Do Better)

The tech industry still has a long way to go toward equity and equality in the workplace.
Sam Daley
March 13, 2020
Updated: March 21, 2020
Sam Daley
March 13, 2020
Updated: March 21, 2020

Let’s face it, tech still has an issue with gender diversity. The tech sector sadly lags behind the rest of the job market when it comes to hiring women. As the percentage of employed women across all job sectors in the US has grown to 47%, the five largest tech companies on the planet (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft) only have a workforce of about 34.4% women. While controversial technologies or flashy CEOs get most of the negative airtime, it’s the lack of women in the tech industry that seems to be the largest problem looming overhead.

Women in Tech Stats: Hiring Trends

  • 48% of women in STEM jobs report discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process.
  • Black and Hispanic women, who majored in computer science or engineering, are less likely to be hired into a tech role than their white counterparts.

Why are many women not able to get into a managerial or technical role? One answer could be “the broken rung.” Women currently remain highly underrepresented in software engineering (14% of total workforce) and computer science-related jobs (25% of total workforce). In fact, women software engineer hires have only increased 2% over the last 20 years. Instead of talking about “glass ceilings,” we should acknowledge that women have a much larger barrier at being hired for technical entry level positions. This “broken rung” in the career ladder already puts women at a disadvantage, which leads tech companies into a cycle of hiring employees with the same gender and race (mainly white males).

Women in Tech Stats: Workplace Trends

  • 26% of computing-related jobs are held by women.
  • Just 3% of computing-related jobs are held by African-American women, 6% held by Asian women and 2% held by Hispanic women.
  • 50% of women said they have experienced gender discrimination at work.
  • 43% of Americans believe women create a safer, more respectful work environment than men. Only 5% of Americans believe men create a safer work space.
  • Positively, women’s earnings are outpacing those of men’s when it comes to high-skill jobs.

It unfortunately gets even more discouraging for women of color in the workplace. Though Asian women, black women and Latinas report the desire to be promoted (and to be at the top of their field) more than white men or women, they’re still often promoted less. The “broken rung” is even more broken for women of color, who only make up 18% of entry-level positions, as opposed to 30% of white women and 35% of white men. We have a tough road ahead towards creating gender and racial equality in the tech workplace.

Women in Tech Stats: Entrepreneurial Trends

  • 40% of US businesses are owned by women, with 64% of new women-owned businesses being started by women of color.
  • In 2016, women only received about 2% of total investor funding, and women-led businesses made up just 4.9% of all VC deals.

 

“[Gender inequality] should shame us all in the 21st century because it is not only unacceptable, it is stupid”- UN Chief Antonio Guterres.

Still, it’s not all doom-and-gloom for the outlook of women in tech. Although we have a long road until we achieve gender equality in the workplace, we’re seeing some positive trends across the tech industry. Women-only tech groups, like the FBomb Breakfast Group, are popping up all over the country. They’re acting as an important way for women in tech to meet, network, discuss the challenges and triumphs of their work and lift each other up. Parental leave is becoming an area of great importance for tech companies, that are going above-and-beyond to ensure that new mothers are also able to continue their career pursuits. Additionally, there's been a 24% increase of representation of women in the C-Suite over the past five years.

Gender diversity breeds higher quality products, companies and sectors. Different backgrounds, experiences and ideas ultimately help make any business or industry stronger. Early technology pioneer and computer scientist, Grace Hopper, once said, “The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” She wasn’t just commenting on how using outdated knowledge is harmful to building a product. Rather, she was saying that denying new ideas, especially those from women, will ultimately do more harm than good. For an industry that praises bold ideas, the boldest idea of them all might just be to hire more women.

Encouraging girls to participate in STEM is a key factor in moving towards gender parity in the tech workplace.

What Can We Do to Boost Gender Diversity in Tech?

How can the tech industry do a better job to promote gender parity in the workplace? Instead of focusing solely on women at the C-Suite level, we must put more emphasis on hiring and promoting women at the entry and managerial levels. Below are just a few ways tech could fix their “broken rung” problem to help women achieve their career ambitions.

Give Credit When it’s Due

Women, and especially women of color, mostly feel invisible at work. Studies have shown that managers are quicker to forget the achievements and statements of black women than they are to forget those of white men or women. In order to build a stronger culture, managers, co-workers and executives must constantly call out instances where a woman’s hard work is going unnoticed. An easy way to show praise and bring unnoticed work to light is to send out frequent emails or internal messages to your group highlighting ideas and projects brought about by women.

“We need to understand that if we all work on inclusion together, it’s going to be faster, broader, better, and more thorough than anything we can do on our own.”- Former Reddit CEO + Current Co-Founder of Project Include, Ellen Pao.

 

Require Diverse Candidate Pools for Hiring, Promotions & Board Seats

Because the tech industry is growing at a rampant pace, diversity is sometimes overlooked when it comes to hiring. Instead of gathering a high-quality pool of candidates of different genders, races and backgrounds, some companies rush to hire the first candidate they can find to fill their dire need. This hurried technique is not only wrong, but it’s also dangerous to the future of the company. Accepting more women in the interview process helps to rebuild the “broken rung” and ensures a diversity of quality ideas in the future.

The same process can be implemented in promoting and finding board members. Women are often overlooked for managerial positions because there are fewer of them in the workplace (directly caused by the “broken rung” issue). With more women hired for entry level positions, more women can also then be considered for promotions to managerial spots.

Having a diversity of opinions on tech company boards is incredibly important in today’s day-and-age. Tech companies can stay ahead of the diversity curve by making sure their board members represent current population trends in the country when it comes to race and gender (i.e. ensuring that their boards are 50% women and people of color).

Hire Based on Potential, Not Just Current Competencies and Backgrounds

The current trend of hiring based on current competencies and prior experience is hurting women in the workplace, and it can be traced back to the “broken rung” issue. Because women are currently overlooked for entry level positions, they can’t gain applicable experience as quickly as others. This immediately puts them at a disadvantage in the hiring process, since they weren’t able to gain the knowledge and network they needed.

Instead, tech companies should be hiring on the basis of potential. Companies should hire objectively based on traits like curiosity, engagement, drive, passion and insight to truly figure out who is on the fast-track for management and executive-level positions. Hiring based on future potential, rather than prior experience, levels the playing field and allows women the opportunity to move past that “broken rung” and into the positions they deserve.

Put Hiring Managers and Evaluators Through Unconscious Bias Training

Unconscious bias is one of the biggest threats to diversity in the workplace. Also known as implicit bias, unconscious biases are the underlying attitudes and stereotypes people associate with a person or groups of people. These can be found within almost every step of the hiring process. One of the biggest offenders of unconscious bias is assessing for “culture fit.” Here, candidates are judged whether they’ll get along with the team and share similar interests. Since tech is still a male-dominated sector, it’s more than likely that they’ll unconsciously view other men as having a better “culture fit” for their team than a woman.

Unconscious bias training programs are designed to expose people to their biases and to provide the necessary thought exercises and tools to counteract those behaviors. These training sessions have become an important approach to fixing the issue of diversity in the workplace.

They usually consist of multiple techniques that include counter-stereotyping and perspective-taking. In counter-stereotyping for gender, trainees usually read powerful essays by women talking about their negative experiences with gender in the workplace. Additionally, employees engage in different tasks that display the challenges faced by women at work. Perspective-taking is designed to increase empathy, where trainees are tasked with viewing life from another person’s perspective. Training employees and hiring managers on unconscious bias helps create a more diverse, empathetic and aware workforce that lifts each other up.

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