To know me is to know my passion for advancing women in technology. In fact, it was 10 years ago that I, along with Leslie Vickrey and Jane Hamner, founded ARA, an organization dedicated to that mission.
We celebrated this monumental milestone with a virtual event back in March. We brought ARA founders and other key supporters together to take a look back at the organization’s impact and discuss how we continue to make waves going forward.
This 3-part series incorporates memorable moments and key insights from that virtual event and is supported by additional research and statistics. As a whole, this series illustrates where women in tech stand today and how we retain and advance them now and in the years to come.
Women in Tech Victories in 2023
We must take a moment to acknowledge how far women in technology have come. The short answer is, we’ve come a long way! Women now have more allies, support, and awareness than they’ve ever had before, and our fight is getting stronger every day.
- 51% more women were hired in 2022 than in 2021 (AnitaB)
- In 2023, there are more women in the C-suite and sitting on executive boards than in 2021 (IBM)
Additionally, for the last several years, women in tech have been promoted at higher rates than men, and Black, Latinx, Native American, and Pacific Islander (BLNP) women have seen significant increases in promotion rates. We hope that in some small—or big—way, ARA played a role in helping rise women up and advance them across the technology sector.
We heard one such success story during our anniversary celebration. Ericka Jarosch came to the ARA community in 2019 as a sophomore at the University of Illinois seeking a degree in aerospace engineering. Since then, she has interned with Collins Aerospace, SpaceX, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, and has now joined SpaceX full-time as a Launch Engineer.
Ericka’s is one of many stories highlighting the exceptional progress being made. And as we celebrate victories like Ericka’s, we also know there is more work to be done.
The Realities Women Face
As ARA co-founder Leslie Vickrey reminded us back in March, it’s estimated it will take 132 years to close the global gender gap. It’s unlikely that anyone reading this article right now will live to see full gender parity. That’s shocking!
It is in large part because there aren’t enough women in the tech pipeline. An Accenture report finds only 25% of tech graduates are women and half of young women who go into tech drop out by age 35.
For those who do remain in tech roles, over the next 12 months, 30% of them plan to actively search for a new job. While many factors contribute to that statistic, we know that only 12% of C-suite and Board level positions are held by women despite the 40% representation of women in junior professional/specialist roles.
Barriers to Working in Tech
Research shows unconscious biases continue to permeate the workplace. Leadership attributes remain gendered with men expected to be more results-oriented while women are expected to be people-oriented.
Women also face biases related to their appearance. Camille Tate is the Head of Talent for the tech platform Strava. During our anniversary celebration, she shared a personal story about how her age and hair were often barriers to being hired.
“I have always looked younger than I am, and people treat you differently when they think you’re young or inexperienced,” Camille shared. “And you wouldn’t think my hair would be a problem, but that was really a point of adversity. There are so many stereotypes attached to Black women that impact how we advance in our careers.”
There’s also an alarming statistic that illuminates what’s called the ‘motherhood penalty’—a term describing how mothers suffer wage and hiring disadvantages in the workplace. It’s estimated that the “motherhood penalty” makes up 80% of the gender pay gap.
Organizational priorities and misconceptions impact women in tech roles as well. Fewer than half (45%) of organizations make advancing more women into leadership roles a top, formal business priority. This results in what McKinsey dubs the ‘broken rung’. For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted and only 82 women of color are promoted.
Finally, lack of inclusivity continues to be a barrier for women. Two-thirds of leaders (68%) feel they create empowering environments where people feel a sense of belonging, yet just one-third (36%) of employees agree. And in less-inclusive workplaces, the likelihood that a woman will advance to manager is just 28% compared with 40% for men.
We Remain Hopeful
Research and statistics like the ones we’ve shared can easily lead to discouragement, frustration, and even anger. Instead, let them be the kindling to your fire. Let them be the fuel that drives action and change! Just as Camille reminded us, use overcoming these challenges to empower ourselves and others to keep persisting.
Remember, we likely won’t see gender parity in our lifetime. It’s our job to plant the seeds for those who come along after us to keep sowing. So keep planting!
Our next article in this series will explore what we can do to help ensure women who enter into the tech sector, stay there.