The technology industry has a woman problem. Promising programs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code have popped up to encourage young girls to get into computer science and engineering careers, but today, women still leave tech companies at double the rate of men. Even the women who make it past all the hurdles of being a female in the field–the lack of role models, sexism, and so on–don’t stay very long.
Women Technologists Count, a new report from the Anita Borg Institute (ABI), examines the reasons why women in mid-level roles tend to leave technical career paths to become managers–or decide to leave the industry altogether.
After surveying more than 1,000 women who have left the tech world, a study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee discovered four key reasons why many women seem so repelled. Poor working conditions (i.e. low salaries, long hours, and few advancement opportunities) were reported by 30% of the women. 27% of respondents reported that they had trouble with work-life balance, like finding time for family and travel (what, everyone can’t leave work at 5:30 PM a la Sheryl Sandberg?). A surprisingly large number of women (22%) got bored with daily tasks and their work in general. And 17% didn’t like their coworkers, boss, or office culture.
ABI offers up pages upon pages of recommendations on how to keep women in technology, but they boil it down to this:
ABI cites a handful of major tech companies that are already implementing these recommendations. Intel has its Womens PE and Fellows Forum–a community for women engineers that offers peer mentoring and coaching. IBM’s Women Inventors Community is a support network of female inventors and mentors who share information about the patenting process, career opportunities, and models for success. And Google has its famous extended maternity leave program, which gives women 18 weeks of leave (compared to the 12 required by California). The company also offers an “Expectant and New Parent Gurus” program that is a forum for Googlers to coach their coworkers becoming parents.
All of these programs have resulted in work environments where women are more engaged, ABI says (more than 1,000 women have been involved in IBM’s inventor community, for example):
A large-scale study of women in engineering careers shows that women who work in companies that support their development, help them manage work-life integration, and value their contributions are most satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave the company. This perceived support has the power to mitigate the effects of a poor manager, a difficult microclimate, or the disruption associated with organizational change.
The conclusion? When it comes to keeping women in technology, a little support and listening goes a long way.