Insights for Organisations

How to Attract, Engage and Retain Women in Tech

John Smith

Attracting, engaging and retaining women in tech has never been more important. The technology industry is predominantly male-dominated, with a significant gender gap. If the industry doesn’t take a proactive approach to change, this gap is not expected to close until 2120. With the growing digital skills gap and rapid technological advancements, taking action to improve gender equality in technology will be imperative to the industry’s success.

According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, improving gender equality would result in a 3.5% increase in GDP per capita by 2025, which would equate to an additional €1.2 trillion in financial gains. It would also lead to an additional 10.5 million jobs! In STEM in particular, reducing the gender gap would result in a reduced skills gap, an increase in employment and a bigger labour market. It would also have a positive impact across the EU, supporting an improvement in GDP of between €610 – €820 billion by 2050.

Businesses need to prioritise attracting, hiring and retaining women in tech so they don’t miss out on benefiting from a valuable pool of skilled professionals.

Let’s explore why women are so important in the technology industry, and what your business can do to attract and retain more female talent.

What’s in this article?

Why is it important to hire women in technology?

Gender disparity is a widespread and long-standing issue in the technology industry that results in the under-representation of women in technology-related fields. As it stands, just 26% of the tech workforce is made up of women and within this figure, an even smaller percentage of women currently fill leadership roles at just 10.9%.

There are numerous reasons for the disparity between men and women in the industry, including unconscious bias, gender stereotypes, unequal pay and discrimination. Yet, one of the biggest contributing factors starts at education level, with the gender gap in STEM education being even higher than at the professional stage. In fact, just 15% of Engineering and 19% of Computer Studies graduates in the UK are female. This means that fewer women are engaged in the industry to begin with, and are less likely to pursue a career in tech.

Addressing these issues and promoting gender diversity in technology-related fields is important for creating a more inclusive and equitable industry. It is imperative that significant changes are made within the industry to attract and retain more female talent. Not only do businesses have an ethical obligation to advocate for gender diversity and inclusion within their teams, but they would also benefit from hiring more women. For one, hiring more women on your teams would provide greater diversity of thought and offer unique perspectives. Likewise, a diverse workforce can help companies to better understand and meet the needs of their customers – many of which are likely to be women. Diverse teams are the key to high business performance.

The digital skills gap in the UK currently costs the economy up to £63 billion per year in potential GDP. With women comprising approximately half of the population, there is a huge pool of untapped female talent in the industry. Tapping into this talent pool would have the potential to bridge the digital skills gap. As such, businesses need to reevaluate their processes going forward and make a conscious effort to appeal to female job candidates, engage their female workforce and improve retention rates.

5 Ways to attract, engage and retain women in tech

While there are a number of issues when it comes to hiring women in tech, the challenges do not stop there. Engaging and retaining women in tech also present their own challenges and require businesses to address their current processes.

Here are five ways your business can attract more women and retain them:

  1. Foster an inclusive work culture
  2. Address the gender pay gap
  3. Advocate for representation at all levels
  4. Offer family-friendly work policies and benefits
  5. Invest in mentorships, internships and apprenticeships

1. Foster an inclusive work culture

No matter your goals, fostering an inclusive work culture is essential for your business. Inclusivity at work should span all groups, such as different academic backgrounds, races, religions, ages and genders.

Sex falls under protected characteristics according to UK law, which means businesses have a legal obligation to treat all employees fairly, regardless of how they choose to identify themselves. However, gender bias is still prevalent across the country and across industries – technology included. In fact, one of the leading reasons for women to leave the tech industry is workplace discrimination and unfair treatment. As such, inclusivity should be a top business priority!

Workplace inclusivity should be considered in all aspects of a business, including using gender-neutral language in your marketing materials and job listings, impartial hiring practices and merit-based appraisal processes. However, it may also involve addressing more serious forms of discrimination, such as microaggressions and sexual harassment.

Improving workplace inclusivity will have wide-spanning benefits for both the business and the employee. Gender inclusivity will have a direct impact on employee happiness, as your teams will feel more fulfilled and valued in their roles. Studies reveal that happier teams are 31% more productive, which is key to supporting positive business performance and will promote job satisfaction, contributing to increased employee happiness – it is an ongoing cycle! All of this will feed into reduced employee turnover, which can save you a significant sum of money on hiring and training costs.

2. Address the gender pay gap

Currently, 91.1% of tech companies pay their male employees more than their female employees. This leaves the technology gender pay gap at 16%, which is higher than the national average of 11.6%. Despite having improved marginally from previous years, the gender pay gap in tech is still a serious issue that deters many women from entering the industry.

There are a few steps your business can take to address the gender pay gap, predominantly focusing on implicit bias in your hiring and promotion processes. However, this will look different for every business. Before you begin, we recommend identifying your own gender pay gap and areas for improvement, so that you can put the necessary initiatives in place to reduce this.

It is important to document your findings in the form of a report and run this annually to keep track of your progress and remain accountable. You should also make this public for all employees and potential talent to see, so that your efforts to address the gender pay gap don’t go unnoticed, and your company appeals to more female candidates. This is something we do at FDM. Our annual gender pay gap report showcases our continued commitment towards gender inclusivity and equal opportunity in the workplace.

Read more on how to improve diversity in your recruitment processes.

3. Advocate for representation at all levels

Advocating for female representation at all levels is a crucial part of creating an inclusive work culture, especially in senior leadership positions.

A leading contributing factor to the gender pay gap in tech is the lack of female representation in senior, higher-paying positions. In the UK, just 22% of directors are women, however, women in senior positions contribute greatly to business performance. Reports reveal that hiring more women at board level has a positive impact on business performance and has a much higher potential to outperform those that do not have women in C-Level positions. Hiring more women in these positions will also influence closing the gender pay gap.

Advocating for female representation at all levels will be influential on your teams too, bringing new perspectives to decision-making and hiring processes, and providing role models to motivate your junior female teams, for instance. According to 57% of women at work, having a relatable role model in leadership is key to their career success, which means more women in leadership positions will benefit the wider team.

An important topic discussed in the diversity and inclusion community is the ‘only’ experience, which refers to the feeling of being ‘the only one’ or different from those around you. It is an experience that affects one in five women in the professional world and is more likely to lead to their ideas being challenged, feelings of alienation and receiving derogatory comments. Women who identify themselves as being an ‘only’ often experience more microaggressions than women who work alongside other women, and more so than male ‘onlys’. Increasing female representation is an effective way to reduce the ‘only’ experience and foster a healthy work environment for everyone.

4. Offer family-friendly work policies and benefits

Nowadays, job hunters are on the lookout for more than just a good salary (not that fair pay isn’t important!), but place a higher value on workplace benefits. Generally, the most desirable work benefits include remote working, private healthcare and flexible hours. However, this will change based on the demographic.

When it comes to attracting and retaining female employees in particular, it is critical that you take the time to understand the policies and benefits they desire, and that will improve their job satisfaction.  For instance, women face unique challenges, such as maternity leave and juggling family responsibilities. Therefore, key family-friendly benefits to offer could include breastfeeding rooms, maternity leave and pay, flexible working hours, remote working, and childcare facilities or expenses.

Sociology experts have coined the term the ‘motherhood penalty’, which describes the disadvantages faced by working mothers compared to childless women. The main issues working mothers face are related to pay and perceived competence by colleagues or employers, with many working mothers viewed as less dependable and committed to their jobs. It is even believed that women face a ‘pay penalty per child’. For this reason, family-friendly benefits should be an essential part of your job offering and could be the deciding factor when it comes to candidates choosing your company over a competitor.

5. Invest in mentorships, internships and apprenticeships

Mentorships, internships and apprenticeships are all fantastic programmes that can help encourage more women to get involved in the technology industry. Providing an alternative entry route to technology is especially important given the disparity of women in STEM education.

Having someone to look to for support is invaluable and offers employees the confidence and guidance they need to develop within their careers. This is especially true amongst minority groups, such as women in tech, who can benefit from learning from a successful role model to whom they can relate.

Studies show that 91% of workers who have a career mentor say they are happy in their jobs, and 89% believe their contributions are valued by their colleagues. The data reveals that mentorships are most valued among junior employees. The great thing about mentorships is that they do not require a significant budget to run successfully, but can be as valuable as a pay rise for some. If employees are not willing to participate in mentoring, it can also be useful to organise mentor groups to build support networks.

Internships can also be a great way to get more women involved and give them a taste of what a career in tech could look like, before going on to commit to full-time education in a tech field or apply for a tech role. Similarly, apprenticeships are a fantastic way to offer a gateway into a certain industry and provide hands-on experience.

At FDM, our Apprenticeship Programme is designed to help individuals kick-start their career in technology, without any prior experience. We do this by offering practical training and hands-on work experience, which opens up the tech world to a more diverse range of candidates – with a huge focus on encouraging more women to get involved!

We also offer a variety of programmes to support our consultants professionally and with their wellbeing. Our mentor programme partners consultants with mentors based on their career aspirations, and helps build long-term professional development opportunities for new starters entering the industry.

Getting women into tech

Employers hold a social responsibility to improve their hiring practices and take action to become more inclusive to attract and retain more women within the tech industry. The first steps to getting more women into tech starts with your inclusivity policies and workplace culture. Addressing these aspects will then feed into your commitment to closing the gender pay gap and increasing female representation across your company.

Attracting, engaging and retaining women in technology requires you to be proactive, and may call for a significant shift in work culture and a dedicated team to facilitate. Partnering with a talent solutions partner can be an effective way to mitigate the challenges your business faces when improving gender diversity. FDM is an equal opportunity employer, dedicated to championing women in STEM and revolutionising the technology industry. We use strength-based hiring practices, offer expert training to all, and place our candidates with clients based on their skill sets and potential for the role.

If you’re looking to hire and retain the top female talent, check out FDM’s consultant services or get in touch for more information.