The tech industry, despite being a leader in the world of work, is lagging behind on gender equality, with women still underrepresented and underpaid compared to their male counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stalled women’s progression, with millions leaving the workforce since the beginning of 2020, whether due to layoffs or taking on responsibilities like household and caregiving. As women’s place in tech became cloudier, many considered downshifting their careers, or leaving the workforce entirely.
Today, women make up approximately 47% of the US workforce, but hold less than one-third of leadership positions in tech, a low level of representation that predates the pandemic. Although it’s not yet clear how the past two years will affect women in corporate America – and more specifically the tech industry – moving forward, it’s clear the crisis is far from over. While there are no quick fixes, there are steps women can take to expand the roster of female leaders in tech.
To understand this, I connected with Christy Wyatt, President and CEO of Absolute Software, on her experience climbing the tech ladder to reach the C-suite. She shares valuable advice for how women can regain lost ground and shrink the gender gap that has plagued the industry for years.
1. Being aware of inequities imposed by a hybrid economy
Companies are incorporating flexible work arrangements, and women are embracing this freedom. A FlexJobs survey found 68% of women prefer to work remotely post-pandemic, and 80% ranked it as a top job perk. “Historically, women have been forced to choose between advancing careers or caring for their families – and this was accentuated during the pandemic,” said Wyatt.
Women are uncovering the benefits of remote work, but Wyatt cautions, “being amenable to flexible schedules merely scratches the surface for what is required to make this successful.” If not implemented properly, it can exacerbate inequities. In-person employees may get more visibility from management, which could result in more opportunities for sponsorship. Leaders must be cognizant about enriching company culture for all. “This means actively adjusting workplace cultures to ensure women, and remote workers more generally, do not face negative consequences in terms of pay, upward mobility, or job security,” Wyatt stated.
2. Sharpening the saw for professional advancement
The tech landscape is rapidly changing, with new innovations, techniques and concepts continually introduced. But in an ever-changing sector, how can women break through the noise? Become a “hybrid work ninja,” Wyatt shared. “Be inclusive and connect with colleagues and team members wherever they are,” and more importantly, “create” – don’t “wait” – for opportunities.
Professional development, in particular, is lacking for women tech professionals. According to a Skills Soft survey, 32% of women in tech cited a lack of development opportunities as a key challenge in pursuing their careers. “In today’s remote-first world, online learning and certifications are a great way for women to upskill and reskill and accelerate a career change to enter higher-level, higher-paying jobs,” said Wyatt.