With International Women’s day on Sunday I wanted to take a deeper dive into the importance of women in leadership. Over the past decade we have seen an increase in women in leadership roles and are starting to see how it impacts the organizations that are putting them there. Those organizations have realized it’s not just about equality, in fact it’s just plain good for business. Let’s take a look at Why Women are needed in Tech and Leadership roles.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise as having a difference of opinions and points of views will only help with innovation. In a study done in California of the 400 largest companies the 25 firms with the highest number of women in leadership performed 74% better than the average. In Canada McKinsey Global Institute believes that with an increase in women in leadership it will grow the GDP by $150 billion by 2026. Knowing all this it’s clear the way of the future is to work to get more women into leadership positions.

Women in Tech

One area where the number of women in general is low let alone in leadership is technology. With only about 26% of computing roles held by women there is clearly a lack of representation in the industry. Those numbers drop significantly when we get look at leadership positions as they occupy only 5% of those roles in tech. This is concerning as in Canada there was an increase of 61,000 new tech workers but employers posted 116,000 openings last year. The solution is there for organizations to meet their current and future demands for tech workers. To do this we will need to figure out how to get more women in the industry.

The reality is that women in tech have decreased since the early 2000’s. One major issue with women in tech today is that 54% will leave mid-career which is higher than any other industry for women. These women are mostly moving to non-tech roles and sometimes even in the same company they were working at. Therefore, it’s obvious that there some underlying issues when it comes to women working in technology compared to other professions.

Why are they leaving tech?

For most women who end up leaving they report that they see a lack of development, support from their managers and not much opportunity for growth. As well as, having experienced undermining behaviour from their manager which is something I think most women can relate to. These issues stem from within organizations and happen at all levels as well.

Lack of creative technical roles

Another major issue that is seen for women in tech is lack of technical roles that are challenging and creative. This means that they often have fewer satisfying roles from a technical standpoint which is a major reason for their change. Evidence for this can be seen in patenting of technology within companies. Teams that account for patents that are all female make up only 2% while mixed teams make up another 10%. However, female’s contributing to patents has increased from 1.7% to 7.8% over the same time period that the number in women in tech has fallen from 32 to 25%. This is interesting as you would expect it to decline with a lower number of women in tech. When women are given the opportunity they deliver.

Looking further into the types of roles women are working in, we see they are often taking on execution roles and not creative ones. Top roles for women are Project Manager, Business analyst and QA analyst all of which are not creative roles. These focus more on the execution of a project and although are important they take less creativity.

Women in Leadership

Women are underrepresented in leadership roles in tech. Only 7% of CIO roles globally are held by women at the moment which is down 2% from last year. This isn’t due to a lack of desire as 85% of women in tech have the ambition to move up the ladder but often feel stalled in their careers. When they feel stalled, they often look for other career paths for advancement.

To further complicate things the number of women studying computer science has also dropped significantly over the last 30 years with them representing only 18% of majors in the field. Fewer women are entering a growing industry and of those that do take that path, most leave or are pushed to non-technical roles. All this has led to a lack of women and women leaders in tech.

How can we fix this?

We need to be aware of our own bias when it comes to women. Implicit bias is something we all have built up over time and it puts people into boxes in our heads. Leaders, organizations and men need to remind themselves of these biases and only look at the accomplishments of the women they work with. Talented women in the industry just aren’t being given the opportunity to show what they are capable of. Organizations are missing a huge opportunity at the moment. When it comes to building your next innovation team, make sure to get women on it and you won’t be disappointed. These biases are especially important to remember when looking to move people into leadership. We know women are eager to get there and are more than capable as we have seen above. Given the opportunity they will deliver which can only be beneficial for the organization.

Women in tech programs

There is changing happening to get women more involved in tech at an early age and to show them the career path. Most of these organizations are working to teach young girls about coding and getting them comfortable in the space. Here is a list of 16 really great ones and if you know any others feel free to share! We need to support these organizations and make them both accessible and visible to young girls.

Highlight successful women leaders

We hear about representation and how important it is to see people in positions of power. Having someone to look up that looks like you in a leadership role is huge for any little girl. They need to know it is possible and that women belong in tech. My call to action is simple, we need to take every opportunity possible to highlight the great women who are in tech and especially the ones in leadership positions. Telling their stories and showing their accomplishments will only help future generations of women to know they belong in tech. Here are 23 in Canada.

Company initiatives

Organizations are taking notice of this problem and take innovative approaches to increase the number of women in their employment. These initiatives are different across the board but are focused on hiring and developing more women in their organizations. Recently Ubisoft and 15 start-ups started an initiative to get more women in tech by sending them to Silicon Valley and creating ambassadors for each company. Companies like Nuance are working with programs like WomenHack and others to increase the number of women in their organizations. Seeking out companies who are taking on these initiatives is always a good idea.

There are some very big challenges ahead in taking on the underlying issues for a lack of women both in tech and leadership. At the same time, there are people working hard to change these issues and we can’t overlook them. We need to work together to form a more inclusive and diverse workforce. The organizations that do will reap the benefits. Answering the question of Why Women are needed in Tech and Leadership?

How avansai can help

If you feel stalled in your current role or organization and are considering leaving the industry, reach out. We can help you in getting that promotion or simply how to approach your manager for more support. If your looking for a change fill out our Career Matrix and let us find you something new.

Jason Levy

Co-Founder @ avansai