How to Support and Empower Women in Tech and Other Male-Dominated Industries
As of 2019, the most recent year for which Bureau of Labor Statistics data is available, 54.7% of American women participate in the workforce, whether it be in full-time, part-time, or freelance/contract positions. According to Forbes, women make up 58.4% of the total workforce in 2022, a reduction from 59.2% prior to the pandemic.
Yet despite their ubiquity, women continue to make less money and hold fewer positions of power than their male counterparts with the same education and experience level. The BLS notes that women only earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, and the higher up one goes in a company’s structure, the less likely they are to find women in leadership roles.
Additional BLS statistics show that women hold 52% of professional-level and management jobs, though Fortune notes that only 4.8% of its Global 500 companies have women holding CEO positions, and Catalyst adds that only 6% of S&P 500 companies have women CEOs and only 30% even have women on their boards in the first place.
A disparity in opportunities and pay for women also exists along racial lines. As recorded by the BLS, Asian women are 53.3% and white women are 46.1% more likely to be promoted into leadership and/or higher-paying roles than Black women and Latinas with the same credentials. Time’s Up Foundation research also notes that despite the average woman earning 82 cents for every man’s dollar, race plays a role in how wages are paid out as well. The numbers are as follows:
- Latinas: $0.54 per every $1 made by a white man
- Indigenous/First Nations women: $0.57 per every $1 made by a white man
- Black women: $0.62 per every $1 made by a white man
- Asian-American and/or Pacific Islander (AAPI) women: $0.90 per every $1 made by a white man
Supporting women in male-dominated industries starts with acknowledging these realities and subsequently expanding into a more holistic approach to making sure all of their concerns are properly addressed.
Women in Tech by the Numbers
Women have always been significant contributors to the tech industry. Ada Lovelace is considered the first computer programmer, and Katherine Johnson’s mathematical prowess was essential to NASA’s initial forays into manned spaceflight — among many, many other key figures during pivotal moments.
Current statistics about women in tech, however, do not reflect a respect for the history of women in the STEM fields. As of 2021, only 26% of professional computer jobs are held by women, and only 13% of chief technology officer (CTO) positions are held by women, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Again, a race gap exists even among women in tech, with NCWIT noting that Black women hold 3% and Latinas hold 1% of available computing jobs.
These numbers are from 2016, the most recent date for which statistics are available.
Underrepresentation leads directly to the undervaluing of women’s work in the tech industry. Fifty-six percent quit by the time they qualify for mid-level promotions, according to NCWIT; this is double the rate for men quitting at this point in their careers. From there, a staggering 51% of women in STEM end up not using their training, whether it be in a non-technical role at the same company, a different company, or opting to take a break from the workforce entirely.
Tech companies wanting to learn how to retain more women employees should consider investing time in understanding the factors that drive them and their valuable skills to leave. Inclusive workplaces enjoy a variety of benefits, including improved employee retention, employee satisfaction, and profits.
Benefits of Hiring More Women
Diversity in the workplace is more than just a buzzword concept. It’s a commitment that reaps proven rewards and sets companies up for long-term success. Actively seeking out and retaining a spectrum of backgrounds and experiences open a workplace up to new perspectives, new ideas, and new innovations.
The benefits of hiring more women include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- Attracting a higher caliber of talent
- Higher employee satisfaction
- More creative solutions
- More positive corporate culture
- Improved harassment prevention and response to incidents
- Improved productivity
- Stronger teams
- Reduced turnover
- Less burnout
Reaping these benefits requires companies to face the challenges of being a woman in tech and other industries where men are disproportionately represented. Simply hiring more women at all levels isn’t enough. Companies must craft a culture that allows women to feel seen, heard, and appreciated as equals to their male counterparts. A welcoming environment encourages them to stay, share their gifts, and find fulfillment in their own growth opportunities.
Challenges Women Face in Male-Dominated Industries
Tech and other male-dominated industries present some major challenges for female employees. Many women discuss feeling like they have to “act like men” in order to fit in with their peers, or face assumptions about their competence due to their gender (and race, where applicable).
Women who are mothers or wish to become mothers often report being made to choose between the two roles, unlike many of the fathers or hopeful fathers with whom they work. Other challenges women face in more male-dominated workplaces include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Lower pay
- Fewer opportunities for advancement
- Sexual harassment claims dismissed
- Inadequate maternity or caretaker leave benefits
- Falling behind when taking a break for motherhood or caregiver duties
- Male colleagues taking credit for their work
- No women available as mentors
Women must also walk careful emotional and expressive tightropes in male-dominated workplaces. They have to make sure they don’t come off as too assertive lest they be labeled as “overbearing”; it’s frustrating to feel pressured to always smile, nod, and never speak up. Many of the best ways to support women at work involve restructuring outdated processes and cultural elements.
Ways to Support Women in the Workplace
Supporting women in male-dominated industries such as tech takes the challenges female workers often face with the utmost seriousness. Companies committed to true growth don’t pay lip service to women in the workplace. They live it every day, and incorporate it into every facet of the business. They know the statistics and make changes accordingly so they don’t become an unfortunate number themselves.
The best ways to support women at work begin and end with listening to their concerns and being nimble enough to address them efficiently and quickly. Some adjustments and ideas to keep in mind when creating and maintaining gender parity in the workplace include the following:
- Paying women the same rate as men with the same experience and education background
- Fairly considering women for promotions
- Training women for leadership roles
- Facilitating better work-life balance through remote or hybrid work or flex hours
- No professional penalties for taking maternal or caretaker leave
- Making women mentors available
- Prioritizing DEI initiatives
- Ensuring women are able to speak up as often as they want in meetings
- Ensuring women receive proper credit for their efforts
- Robust anti-harassment protocols
Many of the benefits that boost the retention rate of women in the workplace also benefit men. Strong DEI initiatives, compassionate parental and caretaker leave, and encouraging better work-life balance are all cornerstones of a more generally healthy workplace.
Gender inclusion in the workplace matters. It matters for the women getting recruited and hired, and it matters for the companies who benefit from making sure their top talent decides to stay. Companies who wish to succeed have to tap into the amazing resources and insights that women bring to the table if they hope to survive a rapidly diversifying workforce.
KnowledgeCity can help you get ahead of the curve when it comes to gender inclusivity. We offer courses in Gender and the Workplace and Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Inclusivity so you can begin making your company a more welcoming and celebratory environment for women and other underrepresented genders in male-dominated fields.
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