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Assessing the Role of Women in Technology: A Five-Year Reflection on Europe
29 April 2024

In the past, tech was a fortress that few women could penetrate. Today, the tide is changing. More women are entering and leaving their mark on the tech industry. Yet, not all is rosy. While we see more women in various professional areas, the tech sector still has fewer. Despite significant efforts from businesses, governments, and multiple organizations to address the imbalance, gender parity in the tech workforce is still far off.

Facing the Facts: The Existing Gender Discrepancy in Tech Fields

Zubr Capital recently studied female representation in tech, focusing on gender diversity, hiring policies, and career growth. Our question was clear – has this area improved in the last five years? Shockingly, our data-driven research shows gender imbalance is still a major concern in IT.

Recent surveys shed light on the harsh truth of gender bias in the tech sector. In 2019, over half of the women confessed facing discrimination at work at least once. By 2024, this had risen drastically, with 76% of women feeling targeted due to their gender, marking a 24% increase in just five years.

The gravity of the situation deepens as a concerning 78% of female tech workers reckon they must outdo their male counterparts to validate their caliber. In 2022, the tech recruitment process showed evident bias, whereby 38% of job advertisements were catered solely towards men. In the UK, almost 60% of women combat gender discrimination at work, majorly because their skills are underrated (74%). However, optimistically, the growing comprehension among women in IT regarding this inequality is beginning to make an impact. While in 2019, many women perceived inequality as normal, there's an increased recognition nowadays that this is not the case. Women are choosing to voice their experiences and call for change.

In Europe, the gender pay gap is particularly noticeable, with Germany being a worrying case. Men in tech roles there earn about €15,000 more per year than their female peers, making it one of the worst gender wage gaps in Europe. 

Adding to these challenges is women's struggle to secure funding in the tech world. Female-led startups generally find fundraising more challenging relative to their male-led equivalents. The venture capital landscape reflects this bias. In 2022, a paltry 1.9% of venture capital went to female tech founders. Totally women-run startups managed to raise only $3.1 billion, a meager 1.8% of the total venture capital, the lowest since 2016.

There's an urgent need for a change. To genuinely support female founders, it's crucial to not only recognize their struggles but also applaud their accomplishments. By shining a light on successful female-led startups, we can boost the visibility of female leadership, thereby inspiring the next wave of female innovators.

A Glimmer of Optimism: Indications of Advancement in Gender Equality

Positive changes are starting to shine through the challenging landscape. Women are slowly but steadily increasing their presence in the UK tech scene, now occupying 29% of technical jobs, up from 24% five years prior, as per data from The Tech Talent Charter. Women also account for 21% of senior positions in tech, and there's a slight bump in the number of female developers, now at 23%, according to a survey of 17,000 respondents. Over in the European Union, more than half – 52% – of the 76 million tech and science job holders are women. Progress is slow but palpable.

Moreover, more female leaders are emerging in the tech field. They now hold 21% of high-ranking tech roles, a notable progress over time. The count of tech companies led by women CEOs is also on a gradual uptick, now at 17%. However, there's still a huge gender gap in the realm of tech giants, with only 2 of the top 50 firms having female CEOs. Sadly, the higher the corporate ladder, the fewer the women.

In 2023, the female quit rate in the tech industry showed hints of lessening. The ratio, while still high at one in three, has eased from 47% in 2019, cites The Tech Talent Charter. While achieving work-life balance continues to be a significant factor for women leaving tech jobs, the decline in the quit rate points to the potential positive impact of industry adjustments. Nevertheless, caution remains necessary. The ongoing struggles with job retention and balancing life and work signal there's more room for improvement.

The Importance of Gender Diversity in the Modern Corporate Environment

What makes gender diversity key in today's business environment? It's not merely about increasing the number of women, but about driving a more effective and creative workforce. As per the expert in Gender Intelligence, Barbara Annis, female leaders not only uplift a company's image but also lower employee attrition rates.

An interesting revelation from the Catalyst report is that corporations with a varied gender composition in management and board roles have superior financial performance. A McKinsey study also forecasts that progress in women's equality may contribute an impressive $12 trillion to GDP by 2025 (Holly Grogan 2016).

But it's beyond just monetary outcomes. Gender diversity enhances corporate supervision and promotes active participation in boardroom discussions. Offering diverse perspectives and market insights, gender-equal teams tackle challenges more efficiently, as per

Gallup Research. Businesses led by women have demonstrated better performance. Astoundingly, Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank confirms that women-led firms he backed met their financial objectives 95% of the time. These companies also thrive in engaging employees and enhancing job contentment. They effectively convey their corporate vision and strategy, inspiring confidence in their products or services (Gallup Report 2014).

To wrap up, gender diversity boosts efficiency, encourages innovation, and fosters improved decision-making. Pursuing gender diversity is not only equitable, but it's also astute business practice that reaps rewards for both employees and organizations.

Why Tech is Losing Its Gender Diversity

Why is the tech sector experiencing dwindling gender diversity, even though its benefits are well-documented?

Several factors account for converging gender diversity in tech. Firstly, tech careers often require lengthy education and professional training. This can result in women in tech delaying childbearing or even foregoing children altogether. Moreover, women usually shoulder most household duties, forcing many to work part-time or quit their careers. A significant one-third of UK female tech workers were contemplating quitting their jobs in 2023, highlighting the crucial importance of work-life balance in their career decision-making.

However, these reasons are just the tip of the iceberg.

Microsoft's latest research illuminates this issue further, showing that girls' interest in tech typically emerges around age 11 but often wanes by age 15. The study links this trend to an insufficient presence of female role models in this field, which might influence young girls to view the tech industry as unwelcoming, regardless of their capabilities or passion.

When courageous women do decide to pursuit a tech career, they often encounter situations that validate their prior reservations. The tech sphere remains regrettably male-dominated. Classic associations that connect masculinity to technology foster a non-supportive work environment where women often feel sidelined. 

Such negative experiences deter female involvement. Strikingly, 'imposter syndrome', where women feel they are deceiving others with their achievements, impacts 8 in 10 women. This syndrome triggers a crisis of confidence, and interestingly, women generally only apply for jobs when they feel they meet at least 90% of the job specifications, while men may apply even when qualifications are unmet.

This lack of confidence appears to be the primary reason for wage inequality. Disturbingly, women often get paid less because they don't negotiate as much, with a whopping 67% of women settling for lower pay than their male counterparts (Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava 2019).

Ensuring Retention and Mentorship for Females in Technology

There's more to gender diversity in the tech field than simply employing more women. It's a dual-pronged task, says Darya Ksenzova, mentor for Women in Tech. "It's not enough to just hire women," she claims. "It's equally crucial to keep them on board. Without keeping these talents, we can't truly evolve."

Darya emphasizes that bolstering women's confidence is pivotal in attracting and retaining women in the tech sector. This boosting of self-belief aids them in reaching leadership roles, signalling an important shift toward a more female-centric setting. Women are drawn to work environments that offer support and inspiration. Additionally, they value leaders who provide advice and mentorship. They appreciate it when it's clear from the start that their bosses and peers are truly invested in their career advancement.

Establishing mentorship programs is a practical step that businesses can utilize to ignite change. The shortage of successful female figures in the tech industry can be a significant hindrance for those trying to make a mark. The prevalent perception of male-dominated teams in top tech firms can often discourage potential candidates. However, creating and growing women-focused groups and networks can reverse this trend. These platforms offer women the opportunity to interact with colleagues in the tech ecosystem and grants them access to essential resources, tools, and mentorship initiatives.

Looking into the future, increasing the number of role models will indirectly mentor more female employees.

Overall, building an environment of mentoring, support, and unity can help women in IT feel more self-assured. It's crucial that these communities are formed, fortified, and offer real value, rather than just be a token gesture.

Changing Views: Grasping the Gender Disparity in Tech

In conclusion, a fascinating finding from a Women in Tech survey that's been overlooked has come to light. In 2019, a sizeable chunk (40%) of the women who participated in the survey believed that the gender bias in technology was due to inherent natural perceptions. By 2023, this viewpoint underwent a major shift, with a strong 56% attributing the gender bias to societal factors and bias from employers.

This notable shift in beliefs showcases a wider transformation in the understanding of the gender imbalance issue. More women are beginning to realize that this inequality is not a 'natural' condition that we have to accept. Instead, it's a result of societal norms and stereotypes that can and should, be challenged and changed.