Women Like Technology Work. It’s Time to Hire More of Them

 

By Nicole Lewis November 18, 2019
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​If women have the chance to stay in their tech jobs and advance in their careers, many of them will find they'll enjoy the work they do, reap the rewards of their labor and find a suitable work/life balance, reveals a Capital One survey that examines why women stay in tech jobs and why they bolt.

The recently published Capital One Women in Technology Survey has some important tips for human resource managers who are focused on helping women thrive in their technology careers.

The online survey was conducted in July and polled 450 women. To find out what appeals to those who have had successful careers, the survey interviewed 250 women who stayed in tech jobs for eight or more years. Questions were also posed to 200 women who left the industry after three or more years.

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce but only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to data from the National Girls Collaborative Project, which brings together organizations that encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Because women haven't traditionally been encouraged to pursue STEM studies, they are underrepresented in technology jobs—and if they do get hired, they often find they can't get promotions, are paid less than their male counterparts for similar or better work, and have fewer role models or female colleagues to help them advance in their careers.

"There's a narrative out there that young girls and women are not choosing a STEM education that is going to lead them to a potential technology career because they don't like the work," said Julie Elberfeld, senior vice president of card technology and executive sponsor of diversity and inclusion for technology at Capital One.

But when women who have stayed and succeeded in tech careers were asked why they stuck it out, the primary reasons given were that they are good at the work (56 percent), enjoy working with other technologists (44 percent) and love the work they do (43 percent). Some also stayed because they received fair and good compensation (41 percent) and have the flexibility to achieve a work/life balance (39 percent).

Of the women who stayed in their tech jobs for more than eight years and attained senior positions, 94 percent said they are confident or very confident in their ability to find a solution to difficult tech problems.

Elberfeld said the results of the survey should help HR managers as they think about policies and programs they can implement that will eliminate discrimination against women and create a work environment that appeals to women who want a successful technology career.

"Women are looking for great and challenging tech work that has a sense of purpose. They want visibility that will lead to advancement, they want the opportunity to get those challenging and meaningful IT assignments, and they want flexibility and fair and equal pay," Elberfeld said. "HR executives have control over these factors that will keep women in technology."

For women who left their tech jobs because the work environment didn't support their career goals, the survey showed that they chose to leave primarily because of weak management support (23 percent), lack of opportunity (20 percent) and not enough work/life balance (22 percent).

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Staffing Technology Professionals]

The report also indicated that other notable factors contributed to women's decisions of whether to stay in or leave tech jobs. These are:

  • Training. Of the women who stayed and succeeded in tech, 56 percent agreed or strongly agreed that their training was superior to their peers', compared with only 34 percent of women who left tech.
  • Role models. Among women who stayed in tech, 75 percent had female role models at their company, while 44 percent of women who chose to leave tech did not.
  • Peer groups. Women who stayed and succeeded in tech were twice as likely to say that peer groups of other women, both within and outside their companies, are very important for work success (45 percent), compared with women who left (23 percent).

"There are very few role models in the workplace," said Stela Lupushor, founder and CEO at Reframe.Work Inc., a Summit, N.J.-based consulting firm that advises organizations on workplace inclusion. "Women need to see a pathway for their progression, they need to have a community they can turn to for advice and support, and they need to rely on inspirational stories when the going gets tough. The lack of women in leadership positions is contributing to the issue."

At the core of what prevents or limits women from participating or staying in technical roles for the long haul, Lupushor added, are deficiencies in hiring, retention and pay practices; career pathing; investments in development and upskilling; and flexibility of jobs or schedules.

As organizations seek to hire for the more than 700,000 IT jobs that CompTIA estimates are unfilled in the U.S., Elberfeld said now is the time to increase the number of women in technology.

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami. She covers business, technology and public policy.

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