According to Girls in Tech, women are making gains in STEM occupations in general, but are still underrepresented—accounting for about 27% of industry workers and less than 17% of leadership positions. Even more striking is the percentage of women who choose to leave the tech industry (45%), with a staggering 28% of those women citing a lack of career growth opportunities as an integral reason for their departure.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the widespread tech skills shortage in the U.S. is partially to blame for the challenges of breaking into the tech industry, regardless of gender. But with twice as many male teenagers as female teenagers expressing an interest in computer programming, and men making up nearly 92% of current software engineers, it’s clear that the gender divide in tech persists at every stage of a woman’s career.
Thankfully, it’s not all bad news! Organizations throughout the tech industry have identified several factors and strategies proven to boost women’s representation in the field—as well as increase their earning potential, foster a sense of belonging, and ultimately retain women in the tech field to power a more equitable future.
Here are 5 strategies tech companies and organizations can use to attract and retain women and nonbinary professionals.
We know through diversity-focused research across all demographics that representation matters—at school, in the media, and certainly at work. In the tech industry, heightened representation of women and minorities has been proven to drive innovation and power better results for companies nationwide.
On the individual level, representation among peers at work fosters an environment in which team members may feel more free to share their ideas. But representation is perhaps most impactful at the leadership level, where the influence of women and nonbinary managers, supervisors, and executive leaders can be felt throughout an organization.
While the number of women in tech leadership has remained low and even declined in recent years—with only 28% of these roles occupied by women or nonbinary executive talent—companies can encourage women to pursue this path by consistently celebrating diversity at all levels. By supporting the development of internal Employee Resource Groups and other DEI and belonging initiatives, an executive team can demonstrate its investment in a more equitable company future.
2. Gender-Allied Skills Training
In addition to representation within traditional workplaces and schools, training programs that exclusively serve women and nonbinary audiences allow participants to upskill within a safe environment for learning.
The primary differentiator between training programs for all individuals and women-only career training programs is an allied sense of community. At the Grace Hopper Program for women and nonbinary students at Fullstack Academy, we’ve observed that this difference may contribute to reduced pay gaps, less pervasive instances of imposter syndrome, and increased graduation and job success rates.
Learn more about the Grace Hopper Program Software Engineering Immersive.
A company’s executive leaders may also assume an active role in upskilling women workers in their organization through dedicated mentorship.
While women and nonbinary team members may ideally be mentored by women and nonbinary leaders, general mentorship programs have been proven to give women professionals the tools they need to advance.
Additionally, U.S. companies can learn from the success of government-enacted quotas in countries like France, Italy, India, and the Netherlands. These quotas require that a certain number of leadership positions across industries are held by women, and have resulted in a nearly 2% bump in women executives in just 1 year.
4. Equal Opportunity, Autonomy, and Incentive in the Workplace
Of course, a company or organization’s statement of its commitment to diversity means little without the policies to back it up. Executives should be aware of the nuances present within each “across the board” company policy and take steps toward ensuring all employees truly have equal opportunity to benefit from them.
For example, if a company allows a choice between hybrid and fully remote work, they should consider that women team members may be more likely to choose remote due to responsibilities at home. With this in mind, companies should implement opportunities for fully remote staff to still interface regularly with their leaders.
Other policy and process areas to consider include:
Equal access to upskilling programs and cross-departmental training
Aligned expectations for all employees, regardless of gender
Aligned, healthy work/life balance and flexibility standards regardless of gender
Comparable pay bands and comprehensive benefits coverage
5. A Culture of Inclusion and Belonging
The throughline of initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining women and nonbinary tech talent is a reactive one. Recognizing that girls are disproportionately less likely to pursue tech education—and that women in tech are less likely to stay in the industry—these strategies attempt to make up for a historical exclusion of women in the field.
That’s why companies, organizations, and educational institutions alike should embrace a culture of inclusion and belonging to address the gender divide at its source. While harder to measure as strategic initiatives, these efforts certainly contribute to allowing women and gender-nonconforming individuals of all ages to discover their potential passion and affinity for technology.
Discover more of what you or your company can do for women in tech with content from the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy, and be sure to connect with our Employer Relations Team to inquire about hiring partnerships.