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Abstract: Gone are the days when women were not allowed to enter into some of the male-dominated areas and engineering and technology have been one of them. In recent years it has been seen through various statistics released by various countries and supported by the research papers that more and more women are taking this career opportunity. However, why gender diversity is important? Is the gender diversity balanced in this area? Are corporates successful in retaining women in technology roles? Do women have balanced representation in the Boards of the companies? Do women have enough role models to look up to? These are some of the questions which have been tried to answer by summarizing various research papers globally. The paper further also discusses the solutions which the corporates can adapt to improve this diversity.
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 1
Women in Technology Reasons for Underrepresentation and What Can Corporates Do to
Improve the Gender Diversity
Abstract: Gone are the days when women were not allowed to enter into some of the
male-dominated areas and engineering and technology have been one of them. In
recent years it has been seen through various statistics released by various countries
and supported by the research papers that more and more women are taking this
career opportunity. However, why gender diversity is important? Is the gender
diversity balanced in this area? Are corporates successful in retaining women in
technology roles? Do women have balanced representation in the Boards of the
companies? Do women have enough role models to look up to? These are some of the
questions which have been tried to answer by summarizing various research papers
globally. The paper further also discusses the solutions which the corporates can
adapt to improve this diversity.
Introduction
Long cramped to the dominion of feminist
studies, issues pertaining to women's access,
participation, advancement, and reward are
rising to eminence in innovation, technology
and entrepreneurship areas traditionally
characterized either by gender-blindness or
male dominance. The number of women
earning advanced degrees in engineering
and technology has increased while the
percentage of male recipients has seen a
decline (Hahm, 2004; Hoffer et al., 2003;
Jacobs, 1996; National Science Foundation,
2007). In the United States, women are
earning more than half of all bachelor's
degrees, half of all professional and doctoral
degrees and around 40% of all degrees in
science and engineering (National Science
Foundation, 2007; American Council on
Education, 2010). This trend of more girls
taking up science and technology course in
schools and colleges is present in almost all
the developed and developing economies of
the world. Girls are entering into
Engineering and Technology programs in
equal or even more numbers to boys. This is
a very positive situation and the credit goes
to many initiatives taken by various
countries on the political front, various non-
profit organizations and also thanks to the
growing usage and availability information
via the internet that fosters confidence in
girls in taking up these technical programs.
These trends certainly suggest that there is
no dearth of skilled professionals in
engineering and technology amongst the
women workforce.
However, unlike the increase in women's
involvement in other professional sectors,
women still form a sectional of professional
scientists and engineers, especially in
MNCs. Despite some great positive
intentions of the corporates, government and
various other organizations, the gender
equality across the technological workforce
landscape is still far-fetched and especially
when this industry known for having a skill
gap is also not up to speed when it comes to
hiring, retaining and developing female
leaders. According to the latest data from
GLA, ~50% of the people living in London
are women but despite that only 12%
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 2
worked at companies with boards that
constituted this ratio. Talking about the
United States, while women account for
around 50% of the workforce, women filled
only 23% of computing positions in 2012
(Whitney and Ames 2014). Although more
than 50% of the proportion in science and
technology is women only 29% take up the
related work when they start their careers.
As per the statement released by Google in
2014, women held 17% of the company's
technical positions. Talking about certain
more economies, women constitute just 14%
of IT workforce in India (Pande 2006),
while Germany and UK account for 20%
each (Downie et al 2004). The 2015
Catalyst Census found that 19.9% of the
board seats on S&P 500 companies are
occupied by women. It took almost a decade
to get a 5% increase to reach this
percentage. In spite of this increase, the
representation of women in technology
companies especially in leadership roles is
still very dismal.
Why is Gender Diversity Important?
The question is why should corporates make
any commitment to include more and more
women in their organizations? Achieving
the right mix in gender diversity can play a
crucial role in transforming businesses,
driving innovation in the workplace and also
enabling the next generation in playing an
important role in the future if technology.
Media often positions the campaigns to attar
more women into technology careers as
"more women for women's sake" (Rojas
2015). However, improving gender diversity
in technology is merely not the latest CSR
initiative; it is a strategy to deliver more
talented and productive workforce with
great business outcomes.
The recent CIO article by Barbara Annis
(Gender Intelligence Expert) says, when you
include women leaders into your
organizations, you not only save money and
reduce employee turnover, you also improve
brand reputation. Research shows that
women bring valuable perspectives and
approaches to the idea generation process,
resulting in simpler solutions to complex
problems. The inclusion of more women
into technical roles should increase like
Google especially since a McKinsey report
shows $12 trillion could be added to GDP
by 2025 by just advancing women's equality
(Holly Grogan 2016).
As per Catalyst report Why Diversity
Matters, Leaders working to create diverse
and inclusive workplaces in which women
can advance must make the connection
between diversity initiatives and their
organization's business goals. Since 2004, a
series of studies by Catalyst suggests that
companies that achieve better gender
diversity in their management and on their
boards achieve better financial results on an
average than others. Catalyst's 2011 study
reveals that organizations with the most
women board directors outperformed those
with the least on return on sales by 16 % and
return on invested capital by 26%. Catalyst
found a clear and positive correlation
between the percentage of women board
directors in the past and the percentage of
women corporate officers in the future.
Additionally, women board directors
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 3
appeared to have a greater effect on
increasing the percentage of line positions
held by women than they did on staff
positions. Line experience is necessary for
advancement into CEO and top leadership
positions and Catalyst's annual Censuses
show that historically women are
underrepresented in these roles.
In 2009, USA Today compared the stock
performances of 13 Fortune 500 companies
with women CEOs to the stocks of the
overall S&P 500 companies and found that
the women-led companies were better off
with an average of 50%, while the S&P 500
was up 25%. Similarly, in 2009, The
Economic Times in India also conducted a
similar study of the BSE 30 companies and
found that the companies with women
promoter CEOs fared better in annual
growth rate for the last five years than BSE
30 as a whole.
Analyzing Standard & Poor's firms,
researchers found that gender-diverse boards
have higher levels of boardroom
involvement and corporate oversight.
Boards with women on them have better
member attendance records. Women
themselves have higher attendance, and
boards with women have improved
attendance of male directors as well. Board
meeting attendance is critical for proper
governance since that is how board members
obtain the information necessary to perform
their fiduciary duties. The study also found
that women directors were tougher monitors
than men directors and were more likely to
be assigned to monitoring-related
committees.
Another study sampled nearly 100 Standard
& Poor's companies and measured corporate
social performance using 43 different social
performance indicators covering the
categories of community, corporate
governance, diversity, employee relations,
environment, human rights, and product-
related social issues. Gender diversity within
the board had a clear, significant, and
positive effect on corporate social
performance. Studying 15 years of data on
the management teams of S&P 1500 firms,
researchers found that more women in top
management improved the performance of
firms that were heavily focused on
innovation.
As per the Gallup Report 2014, a study of
more than 800 business units representing
two different industries retail ad
hospitality finds that gender diverse
businesses have a better financial
performance than those dominated by just
one gender. Like in retail, gender diverse
firms had on average 14% higher
comparable revenue and in hospitality, 19%
higher average quarterly net profit.
Gallup Research shows that gender balanced
companies and teams perform better than
single gender teams for several reasons like,
men and women have different viewpoints,
ideas, and market insights, which enables
better problem solving, ultimately leading to
a superior performance at the business unit
level. Also, gender balancing helps
companies attract and retain talented
women. This is especially relevant as more
women join the labor force around the
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 4
world. Organizations cannot afford to ignore
50% of the potential workforce and expect
to be competitive in the global economy.
Reasons for Low Gender Diversity
Despite so many initiatives taken by
governments, corporations, NGOs, society
at large and the increase in the technical
women workforce we see that the gender
diversity is still very low in all walks of
technical organizations. It is important to
understand why it is so low and what factors
are leading to these dismal numbers.
While some professions have seen an
unparalleled growth in both numbers and the
proportion of women over the past 20 years,
women remain a minority of professional
scientists and engineers in most advanced
economies (European Commission, 2006;
UNESCO, 2007). Certain practices in
science and engineering firms may prevent
women from reaching their full potential, or
outright discrimination against women may
be present in such firms. The existence of
such practices or discrimination could, in
turn, discourage forward-looking women
from entering technology. The reasons for
this continuing gender disparity are complex
and include a combination of factors that
coincide to disseminate traditional
masculine work cultures in science,
engineering and technology workplaces
(Barnard et al., 2010). Consequently,
women in technology have advanced more
slowly in their careers than men and are
even more underrepresented at management
levels, especially senior management levels
(Lee et al., 2010).
The underachievement of women in
technology is often attributed to the leaky
pipeline (Blickenstaff, 2005), which
describes the cumulative attrition of girls
and women from technology education and
careers at key points. Uncommon with other
professional careers, pathways into
technology are typically lengthy, requiring
significant years of higher education and
professional training prior to employment.
One result is that women in technology tend
to have children later than other graduates
and their rates of childlessness are higher
(Blackwell and Glover, 2008).
Women working in technology often find
themselves in highly masculinized
environments (Faulkner, 2007; Miller, 2004)
where traditional essentialist associations
between masculinity and technology are still
prevalent. While many technology
organizations have attempted to address this
by developing flexible working
arrangements (European Commission, 2009)
these are usually directed towards and taken
up primarily by women, leaving the
idealized male model of work intact (Lewis
and Humbert, 2010), and portraying women
as under-achievers. Career advancement for
technology professionals in MNCs is linked
to expectations of mobility and working
across national borders, although these
expectations vary according to the nature of
the work and international considerations as
well as the organizational culture and
practice. For example, in Italy, the norm is
for full-time work for both men and women
while public childcare is limited. French
social policy is designed to enable parents
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 5
(mostly mothers in practice) to juggle family
responsibilities and employment, including
childcare support, the right to work part-
time and generous parental and family leave
(Fagnani, 2009). In The Netherlands, most
mothers work part-time during their
children's early lives supported by a mix of
private and state childcare provision. The
onset of motherhood is often a turning point
at which women engineers can no longer
remain ‘one of the boys' and their resultant
change of status often has profound effects
on their career potential (Jorgenson, 2002;
Ranson, 2005). Taking maternity leave,
many returned to work on a reduced hours
contract and this, together with their new
status as mothers often had an adverse effect
on the way they perceived their progression
opportunities. Motherhood (rather than just
gender) was widely believed to undermine
career opportunities, either directly, via
forms of discrimination, or indirectly by
expectations of behavior that was
incompatible with motherhood.
Another important factor affecting the low
gender diversity is related to shortage or
lack of women role models who can be
looked up to in order to pursue the career
and growth. Research has continually
established that women in the technology
field lack mentors, face challenges in male-
dominated environments and have more
family responsibilities than their male
counterparts. Female role models and
mentors were difficult to find in the
technology field because it is mostly male-
dominated. They felt that having female role
models to look up to and having the
opportunity to talk and share experiences
was important for building self-confidence.
These participants were often made to feel
like outsiders or were intimidated by male
colleagues, which hindered their career
development. A perceived experience of
marginalization also evokes a feeling of
isolation in technology careers. As per the
survey conducted by Servon and Visser in
2011, one-third of women holding
management levels in private sector
technology jobs feel extremely isolated at
work which as per Ahuja (2002) is both a
cause and effect of the lack of female role
models or mentors. This isolation and
inability to access effective role models
affects women's job satisfaction and
engagement. Such isolation takes a toll on
career progression, and can ultimately lead
to women leaving technology fields, as
women who feel isolated are 25 percent
more likely to be stalled in their career than
are their counterparts who do not feel
isolated.
Then there are extreme job situations
sometimes making it difficult for women to
cope up. Across a range of sectors, work
pressures have become more extreme in
recent years. In the technology fields,
growing proportions of managerial workers
travel extensively, put in long hours, and
deal with around the clock client demands
(Hewlett, 2006). Research has shown that
long workweeks, global responsibilities, and
around-the-clock demands make it difficult
for both parents in a family to maintain
ambitious careers. Such family/work
dynamics are largely shaped by culture,
socialization, and economics and our
research indicates that women in technology
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 6
positions are also experiencing this. The
survey conducted by Servon and Visser in
2011 suggests that 36% of women between
25 years and 34 years of age have childcare
responsibilities which jump to 47% in the
age group 35 to 44 years. The combination
of delayed childbearing with the advent of a
second child in the 35 to 44 year age bracket
translates into a significant increase in
childcare pressures for many women in their
mid to late 30s. For many women, eldercare
responsibilities also begin during this same
period 11 percent of 35 to 44-year-old
women are involved with eldercare, and that
figure increases sharply over the next
decade.
Another factor for le low gender diversity is
a workplace culture that is unsupportive to
women and shaped by norms of behavior
and a process of professionalization in
which women feel excluded. Surveys
suggest that women across the technology
sectors report experiencing a variety of
demeaning and predatory behaviors in the
workplace including experiencing sexual
harassment, being viewed as less capable, a
perceived bias in performance evaluation
and receiving unwanted attention due to
appearance (Servon and Visser 2011).
Across all the technology sectors women
noted that hostile and predatory behavior
seemed prevalent at the executive level,
which often left them feeling marginalized
in the workplace. Moreover, by the time
women in technology advance to a relatively
senior level, they remain only a tiny
minority in most companies. Overall,
women hold 15.4 percent of all C-Suite
positions, that is corporate executive offices
within firms (Catalyst, 2009), but women
hold only 9.6 percent of C-Suite positions in
the science, engineering and technology
industries (Catalyst, 2009). The work by
Wentling and Thomas titled "Workplace
Culture that Hinders and Assists the Career
Development of Women in Information
Technology" talks about various workplace
culture characteristics which have hindered
the career development of women in
technology and which is one of the primary
reasons for a low gender diversity. Their
survey reveals that are seven factors
affecting career development of women in
technology. These are:
1. Male dominance
2. Highly competitive
3. Diversity not valued
4. Very conservative
5. Non-consensus decision making
6. Exclusive (not all people treated the
same, some made to feel like
outsiders)
7. Hostile/threatening
By male-dominated characteristic what the
sampled women indicated that good old boy
network made it difficult for them to feel
accepted. Many a time they felt like
outsiders resulting in low self-confidence.
The participants who identified a very
competitive environment as hindering their
development indicated that there were few
high-level positions available, and many
talented or competent people within the
organization who wanted these positions,
which sometimes made it difficult for them
to get promoted in a timely manner. The
study participants who indicated that
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 7
diversity was not valued in their workplace
environment stated that their companies'
culture valued similarities and sameness.
Many times this created difficulties and
hindered their career development because
their personalities and values did not match
this type of culture.
What companies can do to improve the
Gender Diversity?
Improving education and support alone will
not increase the number of women in
technology. Businesses that are keen to
benefit from a greater representation of
women in their teams must ensure that
women do not only feel valued within their
company but also utilize their assets to
attract the best talent from alternative career
paths.
Technology-based companies benefit when
they actively recruit, develop, and promote
women. Studies have shown that placing a
higher number of women in management
and senior leadership positions are proven to
increase the bottom line. The first and the
foremost important point is that we cannot
improve the gender diversity by simply
recruiting more women into the technology
workforce. It is only 50% of the first step.
The other 50% of this step lies in the
retention of these employees. If we keep
recruiting but the leakage keeps happening
through attrition of women in technology
then we are not reaching anywhere. An
effective way to retain talent is to initiate
mentoring programs in the organization in
order to groom women employees in
technology. It must be ensured that mentors
know what their role is and are skilled
coaches. The mentors are educated on the
issues of gender diversity and unintended
gender bias. Both mentors, as well as the
mentees, should be trained to make their
partnership work.
Mentoring program is just one of the steps
which organizations can take to retain more
women talent. However, availability of role
models for women in technology is
something which is lacking a lot and
organizations must put focus in this area and
take steps to have more and more women in
technology who attain the higher
designations and ultimately become role
model for the women in technology. These
role models act as unsaid mentors for many
of these employees.
One of the most important parts to improve
gender diversity lies in making a cultural
shift at the workplace. One of the best long-
term ways to improve the odds of success is
to develop and set objectives with the
managers to create an environment of
empowerment. Creating a culture of
empowerment is the most important step
you can take toward achieving attraction and
retention of women in technology (Schaefer
2015). Management can help women in
technology by making them know how to:
Own their careers
Make their value visible
Expand their influence
Not go it alone
Career Ownership - Few employees,
especially women in entry-level technology
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 8
positions, know what it means to "own" a
career. For example, to advance and develop
in an organization, employees need to know
company policies regarding performance
appraisals, promotions, and working with
management. This is the kind of ongoing
support and coaching that women in
technology need so they can own their
careers. Whether accomplished through a
supervisor, mentor, or HR, this coaching
helps a woman in technology regularly
check her career status. She should be
guided to reassess job satisfaction and
ambitions, pay attention to values and goals
by engaging more with people rather than
just treating them as resources and get an in-
depth perspective.
Visibility - Employees may not initially see
the value in performance appraisals or admit
that performance reviews can add value to
what they do, let alone help them shape up
their careers. They may think that if what
they are doing isn't noticed, it isn't their
problem, per se. However, if particular
decision makers aren't familiar with the
value a technology woman's work is
contributing to the organization, it is her
problem - relating back to the point about
owning her career. We want a woman in
technology to feel empowered to own her
career. Even if she trusts her supervisor, she
needs reinforcement to take full
responsibility for making her value visible.
Many supervisors may not spell this out, but
in addition to requiring a high performer,
they also appreciate an employee who is low
in maintenance. Women in technology (and
otherwise also) should be advised not to
complain about the non-negotiable, they
should be coached to comply with the
obvious, complete their tasks without
reminders, take up work that others don't
want to do, make the most of the
relationship with the boss, present
accomplishments in an effective way,
participate in decision making process to the
fullest extent possible, take another step in
owning the performance and last but not the
least keep a training and assignment log
handy.
Expanding Influence - This tip includes
building relationships with key people in the
organization. We also often get new
opportunities because we have made a good
impression. Our women in technology must
be coached to capitalize on the value of their
network. Employees should learn to
leverage the value of the people they know
and the people those people know. The
intention is not to use the weak ties or others
to get an assignment, an opportunity, or a
job without having earned it. The point is
that people like to be helpful. Many
companies have an internal job posting
mechanism. Encourage your technology
employees to check it regularly if they are
researching career options. Point out that
even if they don't feel they meet the
requirements of the job, if it looks
interesting, they should ask the hiring
manager whether she or he is willing to talk
to them about that type of work. Coach your
employees to be clear that the purpose of
such a request is to obtain information and
to explore possibilities, not to be placed in a
new position. Also, suggest that your
employees reflect on their motivations
before approaching the hiring manager to
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 9
ensure that they are not masking a hidden
agenda, even from themselves.
Don't Go it Alone - Every employee is more
than an occupation or a career. Women in
technology particularly need to hear that it is
not realistic to think they can
compartmentalize their work. They need to
see managers navigating life as it affects
their work and navigating work as it affects
their lives. Explain that not taking care of
their needs as whole persons is a recipe for
burnoutfor both managers and the women
in technology they are trying to attract,
retain, and help to flourish. Good mentoring,
coaching, and employee assistance
counseling can offer that necessary support.
Find people who are patient and
nonjudgmental to help establish a sounding
board for women technology who may feel
pressured to do it all, whether that pressure
is external or self-imposed (Schaefer 2015).
According to Wentling & Thomas 2009,
there are nine workplace characteristics
which help in the development of women in
technology. These are:
1. Teamwork oriented
2. Results driven culture
3. High accountability
4. Challenging
5. Employee/people oriented
6. Open communication
7. Collegial
8. Supportive/caring
9. Collaborative
Working together on projects and building
close relationships with the colleagues
benefit the most in career development.
When we collaborate and are team focused
it means we are not competing for
promotions, as a result, we tend to help each
other succeed. Having support from senior
management as well as colleagues help
develop in the organization. The employee
or people-oriented aspect of workplace
culture indicates that the part of the culture
that provides with training and development
programs, resources, mentoring, and
challenging work opportunities benefits
women in technology the most in their
career development. Additionally, the result
driven organization culture help employees
in succeeding as it provided the necessary
force they needed to stay challenged and
motivated.
The technology industry, in particular, needs
to start practicing what it teaches. With the
rise of cloud and the consumerization of
technology, umpteen companies are
witnessing the advantages of mobile
working technologies and how these can be
a key driver in attracting a diverse range of
professionals into the IT workforce. By
harnessing these solutions, the technology
industry can lead the way in breaking down
some of the barriers that could put off
women and other groups from working in
full-time and part-time tech roles.
Organizations that offer flexible working
hours not only attract more women who
value the balance between home and work
life, but also could greatly reduce the
attrition of talent often seen following
maternity leaves.
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 10
There is also a huge requirement of breaking
down the barriers to success in developing a
more gender diverse or balanced workforce
such as practices like "showing face".
Breaking down barriers built around the
traditional male orientated work culture is
important to ensure that those who work
flexibly areas championed as their office
counterparts. This may involve challenging
the traditional outlook of executive
committees to drive commitment and ensure
accountability.
Broadly, there are two challenges to solve
i.e. how to get more and better women in
technology fields and how to retain these
women in technology. For this as per
Candice Hughes (2018), we need to make
two changes:
Society and business should make
cultural changes to offer a diverse,
welcoming technology environment
that provides flexibility without
career penalties.
Educators and mentors to tell
students the technology opportunity
lies in engineering, computer
science, and other key areas.
Corporations to reexamine structures
and processes to further optimize for
and promote women leaders/CEOs
Government and nonprofits to
provide grants and scholarships for
midcareer tech trained women who
want to switch to or return to key
fields such as engineering and
computer science.
Growing the women in technology pipeline
solves the corporate problem of not having
enough technology workers. In fact,
employees may already be trained and ready
to work, but they are walking away due to
the less than welcoming environment. All
companies need to do is be innovative
enough to put out the welcome mat and
make it pleasant for women in technology to
begin and continue working in their
organizations. This effort would eliminate
the cost and time of searching for workers,
achieving a win-win for companies and
society.
Conclusion
Although the population of women opting of
a career in technology has seen an
increasing trend in the past decades, the
representation of women in senior positions
is still a challenge. One of the major reasons
for the underrepresentation of women in
technology in senior positions is the
retention issue of women after a certain
period in life due to them going the family
way. There are immense benefits of having
balanced gender diversity in the
organization directly attributed to the bottom
lines and hence it is important to retain
women employees to create a balanced mix
of men and women in the technology
workforce. The dearth of role models and
mentors is one of the important reasons
because of which organizations have failed
to retain women in technology fields. There
is a need to change the corporate workplace
culture by making it more women-friendly
and providing them with a safe workplace.
Shitanshu Shekhar Srivastava Page 11
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