Why Women Are Leaving the Tech Industry and Ways to Keep Them

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The number of women working in the tech industry is currently at 35% in the U.S.,1 32% in the U.K., and 25% in the EU.2 Overall, the figure has been rising gradually for years, but globally, the number of women graduating with a college degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) is stagnating. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics reports that women have earned 35% of STEM degrees in the past decade.3 In the U.S., only about 40% of graduates in engineering or computer science go on to work in the industry.4

For years, people have debated how to get more girls and women interested in STEM, but retention may be an even bigger issue. Accenture reported that half of women in tech leave the industry by age 35.5 While there are numerous possible reasons for leaving tech, here are a few commonly cited ones.

Pay Disparity

According to the recruiting site Dice.com, the average annual salary is $114,000 for men in tech and $99,000 for women.6 Cybersecurity also has a gender pay gap, although a smaller one. ISC2 found that women in the U.S. were paid, on average, $142,000 compared to $149,000 for men.7 Women of color averaged just $136,000.

Lack of Opportunities for Advancement

A McKinsey study on women in the workplace (all industries) identified a “broken rung” as a barrier to women’s advancement.8 Overall, women hold 48% of entry-level jobs, but for every 100 men promoted from entry-level positions to manager, only 87 of women are promoted (or 73 women of color). This disparity has persisted for the nine years McKinsey has issued this report, and it has a compounding effect, leading to women holding only 28% of senior vice president or C-level roles. In the tech industry, women hold just 14% of leadership positions.9

Bias and Harassment

While 73% of women in tech reported experiencing gender bias in the workplace,10 80% of men believe the tech industry treats men and women equally.11 Across industries, Deloitte found that 43% of women have experienced harassment or microaggressions at work in the past year.12 Most of these situations are not reported because the victim doesn’t think action will be taken, isn’t sure the complaint is valid, or feels uncomfortable reporting it.13

Caregiver Responsibilities

Deloitte found that half of working women across all industries with a partner and children at home are responsible for most childcare, while just 26% split care duties with their partner equally.14 This is true even if the woman is the primary earner.

In India, where women make up about 36% of the tech workforce, return-to-office initiatives coincided with a higher-than-normal attrition rate of female employees.15 This was most often among mid-career roles, where women are more likely also to have caregiving responsibilities.

How to Retain Female Employees

Keeping women in the tech industry may be an easier task than increasing STEM university enrollment. Reevaluating pay and promotion processes can help overcome current gaps and give women more opportunities for advancement. This can also create more female role models in your organization—another challenge women face.16

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training can help people recognize unconscious bias and, in turn, prevent microaggressions. Organizations can also encourage allyship through employee organizations. Finally, flexibility is key for women with caregiver responsibilities, whether that’s via a hybrid work arrangement or flexible hours.

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics
  2. Financial Times, Gender gap in tech jobs narrows across advanced economies, Mar 2024
  3. UNESCO, New UIS data show that the share of women in STEM graduates stagnant for 10 years, Apr 2024
  4. National Science Board, The STEM Labor Force: Scientists, Engineers, and Skilled Technical Workers, May 2024
  5. Accenture, Resetting tech culture, Sep 2020
  6. Dice, There’s Still a Gender Pay Gap in Tech: Here’s What You Can Do About It, Mar 2024
  7. ISC2, Women in Cybersecurity: Job Satisfaction, the Persistent Pay Gap and Ongoing Challenges, Apr 2024
  8. McKinsey, Women in the Workplace 2023, Oct 2023
  9. Nash Squared, Digital Leadership Report, Jun 2023
  10. SPR, Women in Tech Statistics: 73% Experience Gender Bias in the Workplace, Feb 2024
  11. Euronews, Four in five men in tech say women are treated equally, as women criticise ‘invisible challenges’, Feb 2024
  12. Deloitte, Women @ Work 2024, May 2024
  13. SPR, Women in Tech Statistics: 73% Experience Gender Bias in the Workplace, Feb 2024
  14. Deloitte, Women @ Work 2024, May 2024
  15. The Economic Times, More women logging out of tech jobs amid return-to-office call, Jun 2023
  16. SPR, Women in Tech Statistics: 73% Experience Gender Bias in the Workplace, Feb 2024