Further, men are more likely than women to have entered IT through a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) track in their tertiary education career, 59% vs. 44%.
The survey findings indicate a clear opportunity to engage women to enter the field of technology at an earlier age, potentially making a significant impact on the widespread gender disparity in IT careers today. In fact, 69% of all respondents, which included 658 women and men, believe the key to getting more women in tech is encouraging females to pursue technology in high school or college.
“The visibility and value of a STEM education has skyrocketed in the last decade, but we’re not yet seeing the full impact translate to the IT workplace,” said Bob Miano, Harvey Nash USA President and CEO.
“School and home life can spark the first interest for technology, but individuals as well as companies need to take action throughout the lifecycle of IT careers to keep that enthusiasm alive. There’s no shortage of viable career opportunities for those with an IT interest, whether they become interested early or later. Increasing and keeping women in IT is critical to meet the demand for tech talent in the midst of a permanent IT labour shortage.”
In addition to increasing the number of women in tech, the survey reveals ways to help women become more successful in their IT careers. Findings show that mentoring programs and company policies are proven strategies, particularly important since almost half of women (43%) cite lack of advancement opportunities as a major challenge in their jobs, compared to 26% of men.
Women with more tenure (8+ years of experience or in a leadership role) find lack of advancement opportunities to be more pervasive than early-career women in tech (44% vs. 28%).
More than twice as many women as men (30% of women vs. 13% of men) say an unwelcoming environment to women and minorities is one of the greatest challenges when it comes to working in IT. The number of women who feel this way remains mostly unchanged from last year (29%), but the men who agree has nearly doubled (from 7% in 2016).
Thirty percent (30%) of women aren’t sure whether they will stay in IT for the rest of their careers, compared to only 17% of men who feel the same way. An unsupportive environment is the number one reason women left their last technology job. Furthermore, more than twice as many women than men say they left their last job in part due to unfair treatment by their team or manager (26% of women vs. 11% of men).
That said, IT professionals find much to love about their IT careers: the challenging work (75%), the variety of tasks (57%), and the opportunity to be creative (53%). The largest proportion of both men and women indicate a desire to stay in their current role (38% of men and 32% of women).
More than three-quarters (78%) of represented employers do not offer any programs to support women in tech. Large companies (1,000+ employees) are almost twice as likely as smaller and mid-sized firms to offer formal programs, but that number only reaches 28% for large and 15% for small and mid-sized firms.
Survey participants believe the responsibility for increasing and advancing women in IT is shared among academia, individuals and employers. Almost twice as many women than men feel the c-suite should take action to increase women in technology (51% vs. 26%). But more than any other solution, both men and women agree more should be done at the high school and college levels.
LACK OF MENTORSHIP
Mentorship programs are grossly underutilized, despite 57% of female respondents reporting that a mentor helped their career. Only 6% of both men and women say they would go through their company to find a mentor, and more than half (54%) don’t know how to go about finding one at all.
“Mentors, coaches and executive sponsors play an integral role in the tech ecosystem,” said Leslie Vickrey, ClearEdge Marketing CEO and Founder and ARA Co-Founder. “Our work at ARA has proven time and again that women in IT thrive in an environment where they can openly exchange challenges and strategies for success. This helps keep women moving forward and staying in IT, which could have a direct impact on reducing the IT skills shortage.”
Both men and women rank balancing other life commitments with work as their top area of weakness for the second year in a row. Thirty-four percent (34%) cite lack of flexibility and 38% report long hours among the most challenging parts of working in technology. These challenges also directly impact retention, with 18% of men and 17% of women leaving their last job to seek a better work/life balance. Forty-one percent (41%) of women say outside responsibilities threaten to slow their career advancement, compared to 31% of men.
“Technology has long been an area from which a substantial leave of absence is hard to recover,” said Anna Frazzetto, Harvey Nash Chief Digital Technology Officer & SVP. “Because technologies change so quickly, it’s hard for all tech professionals to stay current when they take time out of the workplace. That has made advancement to executive ranks much harder for women.” – Business Wire