There is no nice way to say it: the quit rate in the IT industry is more than twice as high for women than it is for men. Some of us may draw the conclusion that women would choose family over career and all that, but according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, female attrition rates are just higher in technology than they are in non-STEM fields. A large-scale study found that after about 12 years, approximately 50% of women had left their jobs in STEM fields (mostly in computing or engineering); while only about 20% of women working in other non-STEM professional occupations left their fields during the 30-year span covered by the study. Women in STEM also were more likely to leave in the first few years of their career than women in non-STEM professions.
Within the European Union, women represent almost half of the workforce (49%). An impressive 44% of the female population aged 30-34 in the EU hold a University degree (compared to 34% of men) but only 33% of working women overall have a managerial role, compared to 67% of men (Source: Europa Statistics). The gender pay gap remains high across the member states and particularly high in leading economies like Germany and the UK, contributing onto a high pension gap later in life. As if these facts were not disappointing enough, things get uglier when it comes to the IT industry, where just 18% of the EU workforce are female. Being one of them myself, I know these numbers sound about right.
I am one of the brave (or more likely, weird) women that stayed in technology after the 12-year line. I stayed because I believe in this industry and its fascinating and often life-changing innovations. I can’t think of another sector that bears such a tremendous impact on almost any other industry, from healthcare and education to logistics and manufacturing. Technology facilitates research and advancements in our day-to-day lives making miracles possible, and that was a good enough reason for me.
Real life is no fairy tale of course and if you ask me, I can make a very long list with the reasons why women decide to leave this industry. In the past few years, many technology vendors (the decent ones, at least) have put a lot of thought and effort into addressing the issue, with positive discrimination and the implementation of cultural change programs; but we still have a long way to go. The lack of role models, career paths and mentoring won’t disappear overnight, and it should take years before young women feel this is a field where they’ll be well represented and supported by strong female leaders.
I’m proud to say that SparkPost provides this already. Women represent almost ⅓ of our leadership team and 30% of our overall workforce. We have a large number of smart, successful, passionate female leaders to look up to, who are also inspiring and supportive; true role models for new hires, and for the young women who consider a career in IT.
Indeed, we may not have many female leaders in technology, but we have some great ones. It takes a lot of passion, vision, and commitment to change long-established misconceptions and instill the new. And the women who work in IT have this passion, vision, and commitment to make impactful change for the generations to come.