A significant number of women who work in technology experience physical and verbal harassment in their careers, and nearly half (44%) in the U.S. have seen an increase in sexual harassment at work in the past five years, according to one new report from managed services provider Ensono.
The company surveyed 1,500 women this year, evenly distributed across the US, UK and India to better understand the experiences of women working in the tech industry, and explored topics such as learning and career development, workplace harassment and gender equality.
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The third annual Speak Up survey released Thursday found that one in five women (22%) from the US and India report verbal abuse at work, with the UK closely followed by 21%. In the UK, women reported more subtle forms of discrimination, such as micro-aggressions (23%) or being fired in a group (25%).
Furthermore, 91% of Latina women and 72% of Black women said they have experienced discouragement or setbacks in their careers, compared to 64% of White women.
“For our Speak Up initiative this year, we chose to focus on what’s changing for women pursuing tech careers and the unique needs and experiences of women around the world,” explains Meredith Graham, chief people officer Ensono, in a statement. “Clearly, much work still needs to be done to promote and deliver real change for women in the workplace, especially in technology, which is a predominantly male industry.”
Career Opportunities and Progress Challenges for Women in Tech
The survey found that women feel discouraged from pursuing a STEAM career. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they have experienced discouragement or setbacks while pursuing a career in technology. These setbacks range from being discouraged from pursuing a STEAM career in high school or earlier (45%), feeling like the career path was male-dominated (44%) and being told the career path was too challenging for women ( 36%).
Women in technology are interested in learning and development, but in the US and UK only a third of women say their company offers training programs or academies. Meanwhile, 60% of women say they have heard from employers that a lack of skills is holding them back.
Another key finding was that women across all locations shared that their companies made female candidates feel they had to “prove” themselves more than male candidates. More than a quarter of women from all countries surveyed also said their companies interview more men than women.
One in ten American women said female applicants are subject to harassment during job interviews, and it is even more common in India and the UK. Worryingly, a quarter of female techs in India say they think their company is interviewing women for optics. Women in India are also more likely to be asked questions about their family life than women in the US or UK, according to the report.
While 24% of low-level employees and 19% of mid-level employees somewhat or strongly disagree with the statement that their company treats male and female employees equally, that number drops to just 12% of senior executives and only 7% of those in the C-suite.
With 20% of female respondents saying they will be looking for a new job within a year, the demand for learning and training initiatives shows employers to invest in the career development of female technical workers, the report said.
Paying inequality for women in technology
In the UK, over a quarter of female respondents said that men and women are not treated equally in the workplace, and nearly a third of women believe their companies pay men and women unequally – higher than US respondents. The different experiences of women in different regions are an important distinction for global technology organizations, the report said.
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Based on the report data, the C-suite is out of touch with gender equality. When it comes to salaries, 29% of low-level employees, 23% of mid-level employees, and 25% of high-level employees somewhat or strongly disagree that their company pays men and women equally. That applies to only 6% of the C-suite.
More remote and hybrid opportunities for female techies
On a better note, 85% of women in tech feel they have more job opportunities as a result of remote and hybrid work, and 82% of women in tech reported that remote and hybrid work has made them happier made, the report said. This indicates that the flexibility of remote working has had a positive impact on women and their careers, especially regionally, the report said.
How to reduce barriers for women in tech
It’s important for business leaders to not only listen to women about their experiences, but also create a culture of communication and advocacy to reduce the barriers women face on a daily basis, Graham said in a statement.
In addition, organizations must “continue to challenge themselves to reduce prejudice, prevent harassment and build a more inclusive environment for people of all genders,” Ensono advised in a blog post about the research. “They should provide training and development opportunities with a view to attracting, retaining and developing female tech leaders.”
Gender equality is always a work in progress, Ensono noted. Companies can ensure they stay on the cutting edge by keeping these issues top of mind.