There's a big gender imbalance in the tech industry even today, even after assiduous efforts by large employers and market leaders to try and get more women into the field. And a lot of this is due to a mismatch between what employers are offering and what actually benefits women.
Skillsoft's newly released Women in Tech 2021 report found that what women in the field want the most is actually a path to professional growth. 86% of respondents to a study covering the UK, US, Canada, and France placed importance on professional development and training opportunities, followed by paid time off (85%), health insurance (84%), and flexible working hours (83%).
In contrast, only 42% of employers offered professional development and training, apparently putting a higher priority on offering maternity leave (53%). Even health insurance (58%) and paid time off (57%) appear to be somewhat lacking. The study does mention, though, that the findings related to health insurance may be skewed by the general poor performance of the healthcare system in the US - the respondents from the US ranked health insurance as the most desirable employee benefit.
At the same time, the report found that women in tech are actually more likely to be blocked in their desired professional growth by sexism and gender bias. The biggest challenge is pay inequity, with more than one-third of women saying they are paid less than their equivalent male counterparts - some respondents even reported being told to take lower pay to 'prove their skills'. Almost as many women also face inequity in career opportunities, inequity in professional development opportunities, and inequity in training opportunities.
Give them reasons to stay instead of leave
The pandemic has on the whole pushed more women out of the tech sector than it has made jobs available for them, and it has also made existing inequities worse, going by the findings of research from Deloitte, McKinsey, and others. While Skillsoft's report finds that they are on the whole largely satisfied with their jobs - meaning they may be less likely to go looking for a new job or just leave altogether - more needs to be done to keep women in tech careers and, just as importantly, draw new entrants into the field.
That means providing more opportunities for women's desired professional growth and reducing the inequities that disproportionately challenge them at work: giving them equal pay, equal access to professional development and training, and putting a stop to gender bias that has management and colleagues taking them less seriously or even dismissing their skills.
Skillsoft's report has found that women in tech are most interested in cybersecurity and business analysis - which also happen to be two areas suffering from a severe skills shortage - and providing them with a path into these fields would both retain them in tech and fill the skills gap.