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How to attract and retain female tech talent

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Sarah Wood

Digital Marketing Executive at Women in Tech & Diversity in Tech

Women make up just 19% of the tech industry and this number is even smaller in senior level positions. The gender gap is a persistent problem that requires long-term commitment to turn around.

The Women in Tech Survey 2019 discovered that there isn’t so much a lack of women wanting to pursue a career in tech, but there are substantial factors preventing women from accessing opportunities to begin or continue their careers.

From a lack of returnship options when returning from a career break (meaning that women often go back into tech in lower paid positions) to the impact of unconscious bias in recruitment and the gender pay gap, there’s a whole host of issues putting women off a career in the industry despite having a passion for tech.

What are the solutions? 

Let’s look at some of the most productive solutions employers should consider to help attract and retain female tech talent.

Commit to equal pay for men and women 

As long as a gender pay gap exists in the tech industry women will inevitably feel less valued than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap in tech has been reported as being around 25%, which is higher than the gender pay gap in the UK overall.

If men are being paid more than women in the same jobs it reinforces a troublesome message that men are favoured in the sector. This is especially alienating for women who want to work in tech but are seeing evidence that they will possibly be paid less than their male colleagues. 

88% of women would be drawn to a company that speaks openly about diversity.

Increase returnship opportunities 

Returnships have the potential to make a genuine impact in improving gender diversity in tech, especially when it comes to senior level positions. The structure of a returnship is geared towards creating opportunities for women so that they don’t have to feel like their options are limited to returning into a lower skilled job following a career break.

They are, effectively, high-level internships designed to build the skills and confidence required to go back into a senior level position following a career break.

The pinnacle of their importance in tech is that returnships are a working solution to stemming the moment in many women’s careers that they fall behind men in terms of opportunities for progression and higher pay.

The gender pay gap is around 25%.

One of the most popular reasons women take a career break at some point is to become a primary caregiver for a child/children. But, on deciding to return to work, options are usually limited to going back in at the bottom to climb the ladder again. So long as this cycle continues, the pay gap will persist, maybe even widen.

We must tackle the gender perception issue in tech.

The issue of gender perception and stereotypes is currently sustaining the gender gap in tech, however, it can be turned around to work to narrow the gap instead. This solution is so important because it covers both attracting women into tech and retaining them.

Solutions include: removing gendered language in job ads; telling the stories of female role models in tech in marketing materials and social media; and avoiding gender stereotyping in company advertising. These simple actions will contribute to making the industry more appealing for female graduates considering a career in tech as well as women already working in tech to progress in their careers.

Women shouldn’t be put off a career in tech because it’s common knowledge they will have to fight for equal pay, opportunities to progress, and promotions. Sadly, there is evidence that this is very much a reality in the industry at present.

Embracing returnships, company incentives that appeal to all genders, speaking openly about diversity and inclusion goals, and being transparent about equal pay are all ways in which employers can take control in helping to narrow the gender gap in tech.

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