Women in technology – why aren't there more?

By Robert Half on 3 April 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

Due to the rapid advancement of technology, organizations and careers are being redefined. According to the Boston Consulting Group, 25 major economies that represent 80% of the world's GDP are experiencing severe labor shortages. This shortage is expected to be particularly high in the IT sector, making it crucial to increase the number of women in technical positions.

In Japan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released a survey entitled "Survey on the Latest Trends and Future Estimates of IT Human Resources," which revealed that only one-fourth of IT professionals are women. This indicates that the current gender ratio in the IT industry is unbalanced.

So, why aren't more women choosing to join the technology field? And how can IT companies encourage more women to embark on a career in technology?

With International Women's Day fresh in our minds from the month of March, this blog will examine the current state of gender equality in the technology industry and present an action plan to achieve a more inclusive and gender-equal work environment that includes career advancement for women in technology. 

Gender bias and stereotypes

According to a 2008 Harvard Business Review (HBR) study cited in the 2015 Australian Computer Society (ACS) report “The Promise of Diversity: Gender Equality In The ICT Profession”, around 50 percent of women in technology jobs eventually left the profession. The ACS warned that the IT sector today suffers from a similar problem – amounting to the loss of approximately between 35,000 and 40,000 women from the IT talent pool if the HBR attrition rates are applied.

The HBR study highlights that the high dropout rate was due to several key factors, including “macho culture, isolation in the workforce, unclear and/or stalled career paths, inferior systems of rewards and extreme work pressures.” Attrition rates tended to peak when women were in their late 30s – a period when women find both family and career pressures increasing simultaneously.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) paper “Different genders, different lives”, also cited in the ACS study, identified several biases and stereotypes that negatively impact women in technology. These included:

  • Persistent stereotypes: Women who actively try to advance their careers may be viewed by male colleagues as being too assertive or aggressive – resulting in some women avoiding such salary expectations entirely
  • Family pressures: When women take time off work to raise children, this can hurt their long-term career prospects, given the high value placed by IT employers on accrued knowledge, skills and experience

Despite the perceptions, diversity is good for the economy. Women Who Tech advocated that adding more diversity to the talent pool would lower attrition costs, increase innovation and efficiency, and improve financial gains.


View technology salaries in the 2023 Salary Guide


Increasing the number of women in technology

Improving gender balance in the IT sector requires action on several fronts. Here are five key areas that employers should try to address:

1. Leadership and Responsibilities

Company leaders should recognize that gender equality is a crucial business issue, not just a personnel issue. Senior management should have clear responsibilities and take steps to achieve gender equality Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

2. Adoption of Flexible Work Styles

The working environment has changed dramatically in recent years, with employees seeking better work-life balance, including caregiving and childcare. With advancements in technology, work can be done virtually anywhere. It's essential to create a flexible working environment that allows both men and women to reach their full potential.

3. Mentoring and Sponsorship

Mentoring programs support employees psychologically, while sponsorships help accelerate the career progress of talented employees. These are powerful tools to help women achieve success in the IT industry.

4. Setting Gender Equality Goals

Forced promotion of gender equality goals may create a perception of unfair privileges. Gender equality goals should be set appropriately based on the company's situation, culture, and environment, and reviewed regularly.

5. Promote the Empowerment of Women

While employment opportunities are increasing for both genders, the percentage of women in senior management remains low. The Japanese government has set a target of "increasing the ratio of women in executive positions to 30% or more by 2030." It is expected that both the government and companies will promote the empowerment of women.

Attitudes towards women's advancement in the technology industry are slowly changing. The success of women in their careers can contribute to a company's success in the IT field, which faces a chronic shortage of workers. To address this challenge, it is crucial to take concrete steps towards creating a more inclusive and gender-equal workplace.

For real-world tips from successful female business executives on how to achieve career success, check out the next article below: 


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