…and What Tech Companies Can do to Help

Although the numbers are increasing in other industries such as law or medicine, women are seriously underrepresented in the technology sector in Canada. In a recent Women in Communication and Technology (WCT) report, women make up only 27% of the tech industry’s overall workforce.

The tech world is still a man’s world

“…female employees make up between 26 percent (Microsoft) and 43 percent (Netflix) of the workforce at major tech companies, with the percentage dropping much lower when it comes to actual tech jobs.”

Despite underrepresentation being a common theme, there are additional significant challenges that women encounter in the workplace.

In my personal conversations with women in the technical industry, they shared that women face barriers that men do not. Their opinion is that they:

  • do not have the same opportunities in career navigation;
  • are valued less;
  • and must be more assertive than their male counterparts.

1. Limited access to female role models

In an executive briefing in November 2015, McKinsey Quarterly stated that “we still only see women in 27% of Vice President, 23% of Senior Vice President and 17% of CEO positions.”

Not having women in leadership roles reduces the likelihood of mentorship. We need to ensure that everyone has equitable opportunity to prove themselves.

People have a tendency to mentor or sponsor someone that is like them—the same gender or reminds them of themselves at that time in their career. Unfortunately, this natural tendency begins to break down equal access of all talent in the organization, regardless of gender.

As a company, you can create programs for mentorship. Support co-op programs for female university students. Promote those women within the organization that exhibit management skills to positions that foster leadership growth. Workshops and Lunch & Learns are simple ways for leaders to share experiences.

Additionally, companies can be family and gender friendly, offering flexible work hours. Provide a work-life balance that attracts younger talent that plan to have families during their career growth.

2. A persistent gender pay gap

A study by Glassdoor reveals that “the adjusted pay gap for women in tech can range as high as 28.3%.”

Equal pay matters. To employees and to customers, too. Employees that are paid fairly are more committed, which leads to higher job performance. Customers are more likely to buy your products or engage in services with your company if you pay your female employees fairly.

The common argument about less pay is that women aren’t as assertive during salary negotiations. Therefore, they do not ask for what the offered position could pay. This isn’t an acceptable reason for not increasing salaries or giving promotions.

Make it a norm at your company that women are encouraged to negotiate their salaries and work toward career advancement. Make sure that they are applauded, not penalized, when they do.

3. The stereotype of female assertiveness

Think back to a recent a meeting you attended when a female colleague spoke up boldly and directly. Women admired her, men were offended by her, and she continues to be called a derogatory name behind her back.

Women typically have a smaller range of acceptable behaviours at work compared to men. They  feel tremendous pressure by society and media to adhere to a more feminine role. If they are too nice, they are seen as weak. If they are too aggressive, they are judged as “acting like a man.”  Yet, when men show generosity in the workplace, they are said to be progressive. If they are competitive, it is chalked up as a product of testosterone.

Raise the Bar

Today’s headlines reflect that companies need to make the work climate better for women. This is not about women being victims or men being villains, rather about awareness of culture biases among our profession. There’s no better time than the present to raise the bar on gender diversity in your company.

About the author

A Test Manager at CaseWare International in Toronto, Dawn Jardine has worked in several roles in her career. After years in the teaching profession, Dawn changed direction and entered the software field as a front-end web developer for an eLearning software company. Dawn expanded her skills and expertise to include instructional design, eventually joining the QA testing team. With more than fifteen years of experience, she has participated in the launch of several eLearning and eCommerce projects, including Canadian Police Knowledge Network, Canadian Tire® Corporation, Walmart® Canada, and American Express Membership Rewards®. Passionate about quality process and women in technology, Dawn can be found blogging at qualityyardstick.ca and on Twitter @dawnjardine.