Gender diversity has become more and more critical to company culture and business outcomes with each passing year. However, only 25% of computer occupations are performed by women, according to the Pew Research Center.
To push the conversation on women in tech forward, we’ve compiled statistics through proprietary data, public company reporting, and government sources on one of the most in-demand roles in tech: the software engineer.
Here are five key findings for employers looking to champion gender parity and employees looking to gain context on the current hiring landscape.
If you want all the info — such as how long it takes for women to reach senior positions, representation in major cities, and Big Tech company comparisons, read the full report here.
1. The gender gap widens as seniority increases
Our first statistic is an alarming one.
While all levels of software engineering (SWE) roles are male-dominated, the gap becomes more and more pronounced as the level of seniority rises. Ultimately, the percentage of women at the highest levels shrinks to a dismal 15%.
Women make up 50% of those employed in STEM jobs, and 51% of the total U.S. population are women. Based on these statistics, women in software engineering are generally underrepresented by 25%+ overall and 35%+ at the VP level.
This disparity has a strong negative effect on companies. A lack of women in leadership roles generally leads to lower-performing teams and less effective leadership.
C-suite execs should keep this in mind when it comes time to decide on promotions. Women who stay in tech will be able to put more inclusive goals and strategies in place at the top levels of companies. Employees with women managers were more likely to say their manager supported them in career progression.
Creating an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere for women is not only the equitable thing to do, but it’s also beneficial for the bottom line, raising total revenue by 15% or more.
Role models and mentorship are prerequisites to a stronger pipeline of women in STEM in earlier stages of education and, over time, buoy the overall parity of the gender diversity ratio.
2. Women in software engineering roles face alarmingly high attrition rates
Only 30% of women with engineering degrees are still in engineering 20 years later. These women move to either a non-technical position or leave the workforce entirely — a rate that some sources put at more than 2x the rate of men in similar roles.
There’s no easy answer to why this attrition rate is so high — systemic problems tend to have multiple persistent issues that make them extremely difficult to root out. Some factors include:
- Women are much more likely to take on simultaneous roles of “working mother” and “family caretaker,” unpaid labor that often goes uncredited and unseen. Burnout and mass exodus are the result. Millions of women left the workforce over the past few years as they cared for family members who fell ill with COVID and put their kids through virtual learning.
Remote work offerings in response to COVID-19 have been a double-edged sword for women in tech. Many companies have allowed flexible hours to accommodate caretaking responsibilities. Still, a healthy balance has yet to develop for the majority — leading many women to drop out as they search for affordable child care, reassess their careers, and shift their work-life priorities.
- Many women face hostile work environments, are treated as less technically competent, or are made to feel unwelcome due to their gender. This problem has become further exacerbated as more women leave tech — a lack of women in mentor roles, senior leadership, and women-oriented peer groups has been a major factor in women deciding to leave the industry.
A great way for employers to begin addressing this problem is by starting conversations with the women in your organization who are in technical roles.
Create a safe dialogue to ask about what hurdles they’re facing. Put emphasis on gender diversity-specific problems — bias, lack of mentors, opportunities for advancement, flexible benefits like PTO or child care stipends, etc. to find out how your company can create a supportive environment for work and advancement.
3. The software engineering gender gap begins at university
Though we found that 36% of STEM graduates were women, women earned only 22% of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and 19% in computer science, and no more than 30% of master’s and doctoral degrees in the same fields, according to a recent Pew Research study.
Lack of support and encouragement for women to pursue software engineering work begins in early education and continues through university. Women are more likely to drop STEM classes and leave tech programs.
Schools and colleges can help reverse this trend by committing to clear diversity goals for faculty, establishing a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment, and by setting a clear pathway from studies to a career.
For tech employers with pipelines or partnerships with universities, putting in the work to make women feel welcome, valued, and included in outreach or interview processes will likely be valuable in increasing interest from those applicants.
For women currently in college or about to graduate in these fields: take notice of companies that do — and don’t — make an effort to resonate with your situation. It’s a good signpost for how the day-to-day experience will be joining the organization full-time.
4. Women reach leadership levels faster than men
Despite the alarming statistics, we also found reasons for hope when it comes to closing the gender gap in tech.
We found that women reached the engineering manager level about a year faster than men on average (7.7 compared to 8.6) and the Director/VP level faster, too (12.3 compared to 13.4).
Female engineers who stay in the workforce are performing well, and when their work is recognized, they are rewarded.
When there is a significant shortage in tech talent, hiring more women will also help bridge the skills shortage and benefit the sustained health and growth of the industry as a whole.
5. Women who are software engineers switch jobs more often than men
Interestingly, we found that the average woman in software engineering changed jobs every 2 years and 6 months compared to every 2 years and 10 months for men.
These numbers are far below the average job tenure reported by the US Bureau of Labor of 4.2 years — unsurprising given the demand for software engineers and the amount of recruiter attention they receive.
A few potential reasons for the discrepancy include:
- The gender pay gap. Full-time workers who changed roles receive a 5.2 increase in salary compared to 4.3 for those who do not. The desire to increase earnings may be one factor pushing underpaid female engineers to switch roles more frequently.
- Motivation to learn and advance. As the rapid change in tech continues to accelerate, changing jobs can help software engineers learn new tech stacks, work on new projects, and build new relationships.
- Dissatisfaction with a current position. Kapor found that the top reasons why women leave their tech jobs include unfair treatment, sexual harassment, and stereotyping.
By looking at their workplace culture and prioritizing inclusive practices, companies can reduce turnover and retain their diverse workforce.
Whether you’re a woman in software engineering, upper management at a tech company, or a tech recruiter, we hope these gender diversity statistics were valuable to you.
This is a guest post from Celential.ai. Interested in learning more about the data behind diversity in the tech industry?
Download our report: 2022 Gender Diversity in Software Engineering.
Don’t have enough time? Read the blog summary here.