Despite being a leader in the world of work, the tech industry is lagging behind in terms of gender equality, with women still underrepresented and underpaid compared to their male counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stunted women’s progress, with millions leaving the workforce since early 2020, either due to layoffs or taking on responsibilities such as housekeeping and care. As the place of women in the tech sector grew increasingly murky, many considered retiring their careers or leaving the workforce entirely.
Today, women make up about 47% of the U.S. workforce, but hold less than a third of technology leadership positions, a low representation that predates the pandemic. While it’s not yet clear how women will advance in corporate America — and more specifically the tech industry — over the past two years, it’s clear that the crisis is far from over. While there are no quick fixes, there are steps women can take to increase the number of women leaders in technology.
To understand this, I connected with Christy WyattPresident and CEO of Absolute Software, about her experience climbing the tech ladder to reach the C-suite. She shares valuable advice on how women can regain lost ground and narrow the gender gap that has plagued the industry for years.
1. Be aware of inequalities imposed by a hybrid economy
Companies are increasingly making use of flexible working arrangements and women are embracing this freedom. A FlexJobs questionnaire found that 68% of women prefer to work remotely after a pandemic, and 80% called it a top job. “Historically, women were forced to choose between pursuing careers or taking care of their families — and this was emphasized during the pandemic,” Wyatt said.
Women are discovering the benefits of remote work, but Wyatt warns, “being receptive to flexible schedules is just one barrier to what it takes to make it successful.” If not implemented properly, it can exacerbate inequality. Personal employees may gain more visibility from management, which could result in more opportunities for sponsorship. Leaders need to be aware of enriching corporate culture for everyone. “This means actively adapting workplace cultures to ensure that women, and remote workers in general, are not negatively impacted in terms of pay, upward mobility or job security,” said Wyatt.
2. Sharpen the saw for professional progress
The tech landscape is changing rapidly and new innovations, techniques and concepts are constantly being introduced. But how can women break through the noise in an ever-changing industry? Become a “hybrid work ninja,” Wyatt shared. “Be inclusive and connect with colleagues and team members wherever they are”, and more importantly, “create” – not “wait” – for opportunities.
Professional development in particular is lacking among female tech professionals. According to a Skills Soft questionnaire, 32% of women in technology cited a lack of development opportunities as a major challenge in pursuing their careers. “In today’s remote-first world, online learning and certifications are a great way for women to hone their skills, retrain, and accelerate a career switch to get higher paying jobs,” Wyatt says.
3. Bridging the Trust Gap
In a male-dominated industry like technology, women are likely to experience imposter syndrome. “Gender biases and stereotypes in the tech world are real,” Wyatt said, so “it’s important to have faith in your skills and experience, and unique perspective.” According to the National Bureau of Economic ResearchWomen often underestimate their abilities and achievements, and are more likely to disqualify themselves from positions if they do not meet the full criteria. To break this cycle, Wyatt suggests, “focusing on women’s ability to learn as a force.”
4. Pursue the Benefits of Mentoring
A professional network is crucial for female techies and for the next generation of innovators following in their footsteps. Mentoring gives women tangible opportunities, social connections and visibility. “However, mentorship is not a monthly luncheon or formal contract,” Wyatt says. “It’s having someone around who is inspiring and who is willing to invest in you and work with you.”
The benefits of diverse leadership are well established, but the tech world has yet to fully embrace it. The gender gap persists and women are still underrepresented at all levels of the business pipeline. To make lasting change, companies must renew their commitment to promote gender equality. As Wyatt preaches, “we all rise by lifting others.” Dedicated action will benefit all industry stakeholders, from businesses and their employees to the customers they serve.