BY Georgene Huang

Women in Tech: How Their Experiences Differ From Other Women in the Workforce

Woman coder

Photo credit: Creative Commons

TAGS: Women in the workplace, Technology, Research

Last week, the world got a glimpse into what life is like for women who are receptionists in the U.K. and female airline pilots in America. These are two professions we don't hear about very much when we talk about what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. In general, for the past couple of years, a good portion of the attention about the female experience at work seems to be focused on women in technology. 

To be sure, women in technology face a well-documented set of important challenges. The problems with representation in technology starts early. As GirlsWhoCode’s website highlights: "While 57% of bachelor’s degrees are earned by women, just 12% of computer science degrees are awarded to women." Then, these women enter the workforce, but see a very high attrition rate. According to one study, 56% of technical women leave their roles in mid-career compared (10-20 years in).

The good news is that the tide of public opinion appears to be affecting institutional responses by employers. Technical women are also much less likely to take offenses in the workplace without putting up a good fight. Social media campaigns like #ILookLikeAnEngineer and high profile lawsuits like the Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins trial last year illustrate the way that women in technology have harnessed technology and the media to highlight important problems and amplify their voices.

But are the issues women in tech face really different (and worse) than the ones women face in across the larger workforce? Is the focus on women in technology just an extension of the way that the high-growth industry has captured the public imagination, or are there particularly negative experiences in the tech industry that truly set that industry apart?

This is what I recently discussed with representatives of the National Center for Women &  Information Technology (“NCWIT”). Founded in 2004, NCWIT is a national non-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. This week, NCWIT is holding their annual summit in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada and convening a group of people to discuss the state of women in technology. Although Fairygodboss couldn’t attend this year, we did give NCWIT organizers data that we thought might further their research and understanding of women in computing.

NCWIT were specifically interested in the job experiences of women with certain technical job titles such as “systems engineer,” "website developer," “software developer,” “systems administrator” and other technical positions. We then looked at a sample of Fairygodboss job reviews associated with these technical job titles in order to see what similarities and differences existed among them and the women in our overall community.

The first thing we noticed was that technical women and the overall community of women on our site both shared pretty similar distributions of job satisfaction:

We also noticed that technical women were likely to recommend their employer to other women in similar ratios as other women, overall.

Fairygodboss

We did, however, observe two striking differences between technical women's reviews of their workplace compared to other women. First, technical women were more likely to report gender inequality at work with 54% reporting that men and women are not treated equally in their workplaces compared to 45% of women, overall.

FairygodbossIncidentally, we also looked at women working in the technology sector, overall -- regardless of whether they had technical titles. These women work in a wide range of positions in departments ranging from marketing, sales, PR, HR, finance, technology, and IT to operating roles. What we found -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- is that in comparing technical women to women working in technology, the technical women perceived more gender inequality than women in the tech sector, as a whole. However on measures such as job satisfaction and likelihood to recommend their employer to other women, they reported similar experiences.

FairygodbossThe other difference we found between technical women and women in the workforce, overall is that the technical women were more likely to say that their jobs offered “good flexibility” compared to the population of women in our overall community.

Fairygodboss

So what accounts for the fact that technical women perceive gender inequality in their workplace than the overall population? NCWIT cites a variety of workplace experiences that make life for technical women more difficult: dissatisfaction with career prospects, unconscious bias, and isolation in the workplace are among them. 

The fact that technical women's job satisfaction ratings were so similar to the overall population indicates that these gender equality issues are not necessarily trumping other factors that contribute to job satisfaction (such as compensation, or a pleasant culture, as just two simple examples). In fact, the data suggests that perhaps one of the things that counter-balances the negative experiences of gender inequality may be access to flexibility at work.

To be sure, correlation does not prove causation and comparing two groups' experiences may be an exercise that compares apples to oranges. However, the attention employers and companies are now paying to recruit technical women is a testament to the power of attention that women in technology have shed on the issues they face. While Fairygodboss' data confirms that technical women certainly face many challenges at work, hopefully it also makes clear that women in other industries and roles face similar issues in the workplace deserving of attention.

A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.

Fairygodboss

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!
 

 

Related Community Discussions

  • Hello everyone. I'm trying to attend more tech conferences in 2017 but my budget just doesn't allow for a lot of it. Every event seems to cost a lot and I'd love to attend more. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for what conferences to attend that are more cost-effective as well as how to get discounted tickets anywhere?

  • I believe that the common day to day issues of sexism (too small to call people out on) wear women down more than the big problems. I've also seen men (who were previously oblivious) become great advocates for women when these situations were pointed out to them.

    I am working on a virtual reality program, which share some of the common problems women run across, training the mind to recognize the problem. I'm looking for some of the common issues people run across. Personal experiences, research you've read, anything would be greatly appreciated! Either reply, or email: info@socialQVR.com

    VR has a huge potential for remapping neural training, and I want to make sure I'm drawing from the wealth of communal knowledge, not just my own experience.

  • How do I get a job at Apple? Every time I apply to a position I feel like my resume disappears in the "cloud".

  • I work in a small company with 43 employees. I supervise a team of 3, our section is responsible for conducting testing on components used in consumer products. A few months ago it came to my attention that one of them was falsifying test reports. I notified my boss and a meeting was scheduled with the employee, rep of her choice, my boss, HR person and myself.

    At the meeting the employee opted to bring a friend from another department. I attempted to provide a summary of the matter when asked by my boss. I say attempt because I was continuously interrupted by the "friend" and the employee with comments that I was jealous of the employee, stupid and that they were tired/bored listening to my attempts to present the summary. My boss and HR stayed silent during all of this.

    After the meeting my boss and HR person said they would deliberate. A week later I was informed that no action would be taken against the employee. I have multiple issues now.

    I feel like the work I am doing has no meaning if someone can get away with falsifying reports (I know it is not rocket science but I don't consider ensuring consumers get quality products to be nothing). The employee and her friend giggle in my presence and make reference to her "getting away with it", I really want nothing to do with her anymore but am still her supervisor. My boss tells me that he does not have confidence in the employee's capabilities and would like me to "get her up to scratch", this is the same employee that stated how stupid I was. So while I had to train her for the position and evaluate her performance I am too stupid at some points (disciplinary role) but am suddenly competent when it comes to getting her up to scratch. I feel used by my boss and get really upset when this employee asks me for help (if I am so stupid, she should not need my help).

    Finally I feel very disillusioned by my boss and the HR rep who at no time attempted to bring order to the proceedings. When I voiced this disappointment to my boss he advised me that he was "sorry" but that these sort of things get nasty. He said if such an incident arose in the future he would do better but in the mean time I need to get over it.

    I now supervise an employee I don't trust and a boss for whom I no longer have any respect. My boss says he wants more comraderie in my section (but I just don't see how I can have a positive relationship with this employee).

    Any advice.? Am I overacting like my boss says? Do I just need to buck up and get over this? How do I deal with these issues with the employee and my boss?

  • Hi, I am starting a new job shortly as Head of Marketing for a tech company. The logical part of my brain knows that they believe I can do the job or they wouldn't have made the offer but another part of me is gripped by imposter syndrome and feel out of my depth. Do any of you have some advice on how to overcome imposter syndrome?

Find Out

What are women saying about your company?

Click Here

Share This

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share with Friends
  • Share Anonymously

Women in Tech: How Their Experiences Differ From Other Women in the Workforce

Women in Tech: How Their Experiences Differ From Other Women in the Workforce

Last week, the world got a glimpse into what life is like for women who are  receptionists in the U.K. and female airline pilots in America . Th...

Last week, the world got a glimpse into what life is like for women who are receptionists in the U.K. and female airline pilots in America. These are two professions we don't hear about very much when we talk about what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. In general, for the past couple of years, a good portion of the attention about the female experience at work seems to be focused on women in technology. 

To be sure, women in technology face a well-documented set of important challenges. The problems with representation in technology starts early. As GirlsWhoCode’s website highlights: "While 57% of bachelor’s degrees are earned by women, just 12% of computer science degrees are awarded to women." Then, these women enter the workforce, but see a very high attrition rate. According to one study, 56% of technical women leave their roles in mid-career compared (10-20 years in).

The good news is that the tide of public opinion appears to be affecting institutional responses by employers. Technical women are also much less likely to take offenses in the workplace without putting up a good fight. Social media campaigns like #ILookLikeAnEngineer and high profile lawsuits like the Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins trial last year illustrate the way that women in technology have harnessed technology and the media to highlight important problems and amplify their voices.

But are the issues women in tech face really different (and worse) than the ones women face in across the larger workforce? Is the focus on women in technology just an extension of the way that the high-growth industry has captured the public imagination, or are there particularly negative experiences in the tech industry that truly set that industry apart?

This is what I recently discussed with representatives of the National Center for Women &  Information Technology (“NCWIT”). Founded in 2004, NCWIT is a national non-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. This week, NCWIT is holding their annual summit in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada and convening a group of people to discuss the state of women in technology. Although Fairygodboss couldn’t attend this year, we did give NCWIT organizers data that we thought might further their research and understanding of women in computing.

NCWIT were specifically interested in the job experiences of women with certain technical job titles such as “systems engineer,” "website developer," “software developer,” “systems administrator” and other technical positions. We then looked at a sample of Fairygodboss job reviews associated with these technical job titles in order to see what similarities and differences existed among them and the women in our overall community.

The first thing we noticed was that technical women and the overall community of women on our site both shared pretty similar distributions of job satisfaction:

We also noticed that technical women were likely to recommend their employer to other women in similar ratios as other women, overall.

Fairygodboss

We did, however, observe two striking differences between technical women's reviews of their workplace compared to other women. First, technical women were more likely to report gender inequality at work with 54% reporting that men and women are not treated equally in their workplaces compared to 45% of women, overall.

FairygodbossIncidentally, we also looked at women working in the technology sector, overall -- regardless of whether they had technical titles. These women work in a wide range of positions in departments ranging from marketing, sales, PR, HR, finance, technology, and IT to operating roles. What we found -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- is that in comparing technical women to women working in technology, the technical women perceived more gender inequality than women in the tech sector, as a whole. However on measures such as job satisfaction and likelihood to recommend their employer to other women, they reported similar experiences.

FairygodbossThe other difference we found between technical women and women in the workforce, overall is that the technical women were more likely to say that their jobs offered “good flexibility” compared to the population of women in our overall community.

Fairygodboss

So what accounts for the fact that technical women perceive gender inequality in their workplace than the overall population? NCWIT cites a variety of workplace experiences that make life for technical women more difficult: dissatisfaction with career prospects, unconscious bias, and isolation in the workplace are among them. 

The fact that technical women's job satisfaction ratings were so similar to the overall population indicates that these gender equality issues are not necessarily trumping other factors that contribute to job satisfaction (such as compensation, or a pleasant culture, as just two simple examples). In fact, the data suggests that perhaps one of the things that counter-balances the negative experiences of gender inequality may be access to flexibility at work.

To be sure, correlation does not prove causation and comparing two groups' experiences may be an exercise that compares apples to oranges. However, the attention employers and companies are now paying to recruit technical women is a testament to the power of attention that women in technology have shed on the issues they face. While Fairygodboss' data confirms that technical women certainly face many challenges at work, hopefully it also makes clear that women in other industries and roles face similar issues in the workplace deserving of attention.

A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.

Fairygodboss

Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!
 

 

thumbnail 1 summary