In the U.S., diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of the corporate arena. Companies have realized that to get the best tech talent, they must do more than talk a good game.
“I think that there’s been substantial movement just over the last five years,” said Meredith Graham, chief people officer at Ensono. “Is there a lot of work that still needs to be done? Yes.”
Ensono recently surveyed 1,500 women working in technology across the U.S., India and U.K. for its Speak Up 2022 report to understand day-to-day challenges, gaps in support and training and the impact of remote work. More than half of women in tech surveyed felt the number of male allies had increased in the workplace over the past five years, according to data from Ensono released Thursday. And nearly all the women surveyed said they consider their company to be an inclusive workplace.
Implementing anonymous employee hotlines, ongoing education and training and eliminating the fear of retaliation for employees that speak up are just a few starting points for leadership at companies wanting to support folks, Graham said.
The industry's inclination toward remote work has positively impacted women in the field, as well. More than 70% of women in tech said remote work made it easier to be promoted, improved work/life balance, increased happiness and expanded opportunities.
But, even though most companies claim to be inclusive, toxicity remains for women technologists.
There’s still work to be done
Nearly half of the women in tech surveyed said they had seen an increase in workplace sexual harassment over the last five years, according to Ensono.
Graham said the disconnect between how respondents felt about their company’s inclusivity overall and individual experiences with discrimination is likely a result of the respondent basing the company’s inclusivity on the top-level, big-picture culture that the organization is trying to project.
The report also found differences between the kind of discrimination women in tech faced depending on their geography. The top reports for women in tech in the U.K. were subtle discrimination, such as being dismissed in group settings at 25% and microaggressions at 23%.
In the U.S., however, more than 1 in 5 women in tech have experienced verbal abuse, sexual harassment or intimidation in the workplace, according to the report.
Workplace harassment and abuse are even more common among women of color. More than 4 in 10 women in tech who identify as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and more than 3 in 10 women in tech who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Potential employees will look for red flags. Sara Khan, technical program manager at AWS, said there are a few areas that women, in particular, may check to see if a company is a right fit. A company’s leave policy, for example, may reflect how it views employees and provide insight into whether it has a culture of empathy
In 2020, nearly 2 in 5 women in tech left their careers because of company culture, according to a joint report published by Accenture and Girls Who Code.
The ability to participate in internal and external mentorship programs, as well as assessing the diversity within the staff and C-suite, are other ways that potential employees gauge a company’s culture and priorities, Khan said.
In 2021, Skillsoft released a report that found that most women in technology said opportunities for professional development and training benefits were important to them. Still, fewer than half said their employer offered such benefits.
Despite the current status, Khan said she was hopeful about the future for women technologists.
“There have been so many DEI initiatives that not only push for the growth of women in technology but also women of minorities,” Khan said. “I am thrilled to witness exceptional female leaders in my teams that advocate for each other and help the companies grow on a different level. It’s incredible and beautiful to see.”