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This is why women leave jobs in tech

Not only are there still very few women in tech jobs, the ones who are there leave at a much higher rate than their male counterparts. Here is why and what we can do about it.

This is why women leave jobs in tech
[Photo: Flickr user WOCinTech Chat]

Women hold less than a fifth of technical roles in the tech industry, and while there plenty of efforts to attract and recruit more women into STEM, that’s only half of the equation if companies want a diverse workforce. Once women land jobs in the tech field, they leave at a 45% higher rate than men.

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To find out why, the job site Indeed surveyed 1,000 women in the field, asking about their experiences and how tech companies might retain them. They identified underlying discord that’s causing women to rethink their careers.

Advancement opportunities

Lack of career growth or trajectory was the biggest reason, with 28.1% of respondents saying it caused them to quit. Many of the women also believe that men have an advantage in the field; just 53% said women have the same opportunities to enter senior leadership roles as their male counterparts.

“Lack of career growth is a problem that women face across industries,” says Kim Williams, Indeed’s senior director of design platform, technology, and operations. “This year’s Women in the Workplace report explored this further and discovered that one of the biggest hurdles women face is making the leap into management roles. This is an area where women still remain underrepresented as they are less likely to be hired into management roles and even more unlikely to be promoted into them.”

Wage disparity

Nearly one quarter of women left due to unacceptable pay. Forty-six percent of women in tech feel they are being paid less than their male counterparts, and 45% say wage growth is their biggest job challenge–more than bias, discrimination, or sexual harassment.

The pay gap has actually gotten worse for women in tech than in other industries, says Williams. “Though it is hard to pinpoint exactly why that is, we know that fewer women tend to enter STEM fields than men, which creates a disparity from the beginning,” she says. “And that doesn’t include other reasons that exist that could be why women in tech have lower salaries than men. Some studies, such as Hackerrank’s 2018 Women in Tech report, show women in tech are more likely to hold junior positions compared to their male counterparts, which could be another consideration.”

Work-life balance

When asked about important benefits, the second most popular answer for women is having a flexible work schedule. However, issues related to lifestyle were cited by fewer respondents as reasons for leaving. Work-life balance was chosen by 14.4% of respondents as the reason they quit, and inadequate parental leave policies forced 2.3% out. However, 28% of women with children believe they’ve been passed up for a promotion because they are a parent or have other family responsibilities.

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What can be done?

When asked what could improve the situation and keep them in their jobs, the most common response was that companies should be transparent about salaries, including sharing ranges in job descriptions that would help them identify better opportunities and negotiate a more fair compensation.

“What we are seeing from our study is that women in tech continue to feel they are being paid less than their male counterparts, with many also still being worried about their future wage growth,” says Williams. “If companies can change this perception, whether that is by hiring more women or having salary transparency, it can have an impact on the way women think about their careers.”

Women said they’d like to see companies work toward gender-pay equity and empowering women to ask for promotions. And they’d like a more clearly defined path for switching roles within their company. Publicizing the process for internal mobility could help retain the 6 in 10 women who are interested in moving within the company.

Despite all the initiatives in place aimed at creating more diverse workforces, it’s clear there’s still a long way to go, says Williams. “If companies want to build diverse workplaces, they must have a pipeline of diverse job candidates,” she says. “Companies can also address the concerns the women raised in this survey by providing salary transparency, offering mentorship, and other resources that help individuals grow in their careers, and benefits that support the needs of their employees.”

Williams also encourages women to be their own advocate. “As more women advance in their careers, they break down barriers and set crucial examples for others,” she says. “Once you get into those management and senior leadership positions, continue to find ways to hold yourself and others accountable for creating an environment where women are included and have access to what they need to be successful.”

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