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To grow the number of women in tech, you need to promote the ones you have

Sherry Correll and Lori Mackenzie are trying to figure out what is stopping women from being successful in the tech industry. In a new piece for the Harvard Business Review, Correll, a professor of sociology at Stanford University, and Mackenzie, executive director of Stanford’s gender research institute, say it’s not a pipeline issue—tech companies can’t retain female employees.

In the wake of many realizations that there are not enough women working in technology, much attention and money has been put into developing a female talent pool. That effort, Mackenzie and Correll indicate, is misguided. We should be focusing on keeping the women already in tech. 

After 12 years, 50% of technical women, predominately in engineering and computer science, had switched to other fields; 20% of other women professionals had done the same.

Women who go into STEM drop like flies not long after a decade in the field. Why? Because they get stuck in the purgatory of middle management unable to ascend the highest ranks in their company. Women are often relegated to low-visibility projects, the kind that don’t put women in the position to do work worthy of promotion. So they go elsewhere and sometimes that means to other industries.

This shouldn’t be that surprising. Look at former Googlers Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, and Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; both had to leave in order to get to the C-suite.  Lucky for us they stayed in tech. RR