I read a post this morning from Sue Gardner in the LA Times on why women are leaving the tech space. One piece of the article really hit me and I wanted to explore why women might be leaving the tech space in general.
Women make up a tiny fraction, roughly 15%, of people working in technical roles in the tech industry. And amazingly that percentage is dropping not rising.
Women decide to get into tech sector and technical jobs because those jobs and environments offer a work place full of other intelligent people. They offer a place where people (women and men) can thrive and show their intelligence through their work. Women in the early days of their careers in tech companies find joy and find happiness working in their company. Women can work their ways through the differences they encounter as a woman. Reports show that over time those women who once were happy working in tech start to become more unhappy in their roles in tech companies.
Why does the number of happy women working in tech start to decline after time? The studies show the reasons for a decline in happiness for women working in tech are because of things like:
- Sexual harassment or seeing/knowing it has happened to other women around them in the company.
- Women have been treated in a way they find hostile, demeaning or condescending.
- Women also say that their male colleagues were treated better by their managers than they were.
- They are lacking upward mobility tracks that their male colleagues seem to find easier to attain.
- There have also been studies shown that women get paid less than their male colleagues.
This article states that women in their mid 30s start to find less joy and happiness in their jobs. That is when tech companies typically start to see women leaving. A study done by the Harvard Business Review called "the Athena report" found that 41% of women leave the tech industry after 10 years of work whereas men are leaving at about 17 %.
It sounds like from this article that the main reasons women leave are because of 2 reasons:
1. The lack of promotional opportunities at their current company for women to move up.
2. Unhappy with pay in their current company in the tech space.
Since I work in tech I thought I would add in my thoughts on what I have seen around me. When I have seen women around me in their 20s and 30s leave the tech space it is because they are sick of something happening internally to them or to people around them that they care about.
- They are tired of not getting the job that they think they should get.
- They think that they have no where to move to and are pigeon holed into their current role.
- They are annoyed with the opportunities to further their career at that company they are at so they look outside the company.
- They think they can do more than they are able to do at the current company they are at.
Sounds like we need to do better job at helping women in their 20s and early 30s move up the ranks in the tech space. It feels like this article is right in many ways from what I see around me. I do believe that women have a harder time "moving up" through a company than men do. I still don't know the real reason for that. But, part of me tells me it is about others in the company knowing that you want more and can do more in the company.
It is about opportunity being presented to you or you seeking opportunity throughout the company. That can only happen with internal networking.
The men who I see move up are smart, they are hard working and they do one thing: network and have mentors that help shape their roles at their company. They are determined for something more...something bigger than what they are doing now. They know they can do it and they are self driven to find that.
Women need to work harder at this as I don't think women naturally focus on things like going out for drinks with other colleagues in other departments, they don't naturally hang out with other people in the company outside of their role/space. The people that I have seen move from say an individual contributor role to a management role or VP role are those who have lots of contact with other departments other than their own. If we want more women to stay in their tech companies then we need to help them see how to work their network internally at their company. The way people move up and move sideways in an organization is by flexing their skills to other people in the company.
The problem is that when you work in one role at a company you might not have the natural opportunity to interact with other people outside of that department or role. Women need to do a better job at putting their selves out there and interacting with people around the company. That way when new roles come up or ideas come up in all parts of the company those women will be thought of. They will be asked to apply for jobs and will be seen as a good fit for certain roles. If people don't know you outside of your department or role, how will they ever think that you would want a new role or would ever want to take on more responsibility.
Remember, no one is a mind reader. Not every woman or man working in your company wants more. There are a select few in a company that want more. Make sure people know that about you.
Those women who do want more need to make their selves more visible to other departments and people in the company. Do a great job at your current job but think more openly about problems that you see in your company and try to some how influence that through the work you do.