News & Analysis

Is Gender Diversity In Reverse Gear?

Going by a recent report from Accenture, this seems to be the case with the tech industry at least with women actually quitting careers at a faster pace now

All conversations around gender diversity at the workplace appear to be going nowhere, if one were to believe what a recent study by Accenture says. The study notes that while 35% of tech workers were women in 1984, this number stands at 32% today as women appear to be quitting tech careers at a 45% higher rate than men. 

The report titled “Resetting Tech Culture – 5 Strategies to Keep Women in Tech” says women may be on equal terms in the fields of technology, engineering and mathematics, but they’ve actually fallen further behind at this moment when tech roles are surging and vital to the US economy and its continued leadership around the globe. 

Did gender diversity get worse in 35 years?

“Unbelievably, the proportion of women to men in tech roles has declined over the past 35 years. And half of young women who go into tech drop out by the age of 35,” the report says but sounds a note of optimism that the code to reverse this trend has been cracked. And, the solution is quite simple. 

“We’ve found that an inclusive culture—one that is not only diverse on paper, but that enables everyone to have a voice—is the master key that unlocks opportunities for women who are studying and working in technology,” says the report. It says extensive surveys reveal some specific environmental characteristics that could help women in tech advance and thrive. 

For example, in less-inclusive college environments, just 67% of women of color see a clear pathway from studying tech, engineering or math to a related career, compared with 79% of other women. In more-inclusive environments, this figure jumps to 92%, on par with other women, says the report.  

In the workplace, 83% of LBT women in more inclusive cultures say they love their jobs, compared with just 35% of their peers working in less-inclusive organizations. And in more inclusive workplace cultures, the likelihood of women advancing to manager and beyond by age 30 increases by 61%; for women of color it increases by a staggering 77%.

Are organizations seeing the bigger picture? 

The report says despite the best efforts over the last decade towards encouraging women to pursue tech careers, the percentage of tech workers who were women in 1984 (35%) was actually higher than it is today (32%). However, the absolute number of women in tech roles grew significantly during this time frame from 1.6 million to 3.7 million. However, the gender imbalance just grew worse in the past 35 years, which is both “shocking and damaging”. 

Expanding the point, the report says women hold just 16% of engineering roles and 27% of computing roles across US companies. They leave tech roles at a 45% higher rate than men with half of them dropping off by age 35 compared to just 20% in other industries. Interestingly, the survey revealed that HR leaders had a disconnect with the women’s experience on ground. 

Are the CHROs looking at the right story?

The survey says HR leaders tend to think the culture in their organization is more supportive of women than it actually is. They are (at 45%) twice as likely as women (at 21%) themselves to say it’s “easy for women to thrive in tech.” They also are not yet convinced about the power of culture as much as our research indicates they should be. Just 38% identify building a more-inclusive culture as an effective means to retain and advance women in tech roles.

And there’s proof that HR leaders aren’t on the money. Among the top 1000 companies in the US fewer than one out of five CIOs and CTOs are women. Only about half of the women surveyed believe the company culture where they work is empowering. However, over 75% of the SHROs said their company culture enables women to be successful in technology roles.

In conclusion… 

The Accenture research note says if more women had an inclusive environment in which to learn about and work in tech, companies will be far better able to meet the increasing demand for talent. Bringing more women into the fold will also mitigate problems such as algorithmic or product design bias, which are exacerbated by a lack of diversity. 

Companies with inclusive environments nurture innovation and shrink the gender pay gap, too. Making it so organizations have the people they need to grow, and women have the opportunities they want to succeed, is a winning strategy for companies and for the strength of the economy at large, it adds. 

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