It’s common to see a disparity between men and women when it comes to holding leadership roles across many industries, but when it comes to the tech industry the problem doesn’t just lie at the top; in fact, a report from McKinsey and LeanIn.org has found that many women are struggling to even get their foot in the door.
The report collected data from 30,000 employees at 118 companies across nine industries and found that women hold only 37% of entry-level positions in the tech industry, which is notably lower than the sample’s average of 45%. The problem of under-representation only worsens as the pipeline continues, with women in the tech industry holding only 25% of senior manager positions, and 15% of c-suite roles. It was found that energy, automotive and industrial manufacturing industries have similar numbers.
The report attributes these issues to a “pipeline problem” that has arisen as a result of recruitment challenges and particularly “the low graduation rates of women in industry feeder programs such as engineering, where they receive about 20 percent, 24 percent, and 23 percent of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degrees, respectively.” McKinsey praise organisations such as Girls Who Code and initiatives such as TechPrep which nurture girls’ interest in STEM in early education and try to stop them abandoning their interest.
However, putting the tech industry’s lack of diversity down to a leaky pipeline does seem to be rather an oversimplification of the problem. What also needs to be taken into account is a culture of sexism which actively keeps women away, pushes them out, or stops them progressing. This is a problem which the decreasing numbers of women in leadership roles highlights, especially when you take into consideration this McKinsey report which found that women are leaving these organisations at the same or lower rates than men. It’s not enough just to teach girls to code and it’s not good enough to tell them to behave in a more masculine way in the work environment; there are distinct differences in the way women are perceived in STEM and the problem doesn’t start and stop with the women themselves, it also includes men and the tech culture as a whole.
Fortunately, the report touches, however briefly, on this matter:
“38 percent of women in technology feel that their gender will make it difficult for them to advance in the future. 60 percent of women in technology also cite stress and pressure as their primary reason for not wanting to be a top executive. These figures are among the highest across all sectors surveyed.”
Despite the fact that there’s no one single root to the tech industry’s problem, it is clear something has to be done and McKinsey hope that their report “will help companies to focus their efforts, make meaningful changes, and build momentum to deal with less visible barriers” by helping them recognise where and why they’re failing.
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