Photograph of Colleagues Talking while Smiling
Women hold 24% of leadership positions in the tech industry vs. 76% held by men in 2022. (Kampus Production/ Pexels)

The tech industry faces a pressing challenge: the declining presence of women in leadership roles. Post-pandemic, there was a rebound in the general workforce participation rates of women. Yet, in 2023, Forbes highlighted that the tech sector remains a concerning outlier.

The representation of women in tech leadership roles has actually declined from 35% in 1984 to 28% in 2023. This marks a regressive trend in an otherwise forward-thinking industry.

To address this, some tech companies are adopting comprehensive strategies: blind recruitment to focus on skills, diversity and inclusion training to combat unconscious bias, and clear, objective promotion criteria.

Women's advancement is also being championed by creating networking opportunities, recognizing women's achievements with awards, and designing leadership programs specifically for women.

However, while these initiatives are moving equality in the right direction, women cannot simply wait for change: we need to lead the change. This can be done through personal actions and taking ownership of the role we each play in creating a more equitable tech industry.

Challenge 1: Gender Bias Due to Underrepresentation

Women hold just 24% of leadership positions within the tech industry, compared to 76% held by men in 2022. This can be directly attributed to underrepresentation in two ways.

  1. There are fewer women enrolled in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) subjects at the university level.
  2. This lack of representation is further accentuated as graduates move into the workforce, with the pool of women candidates being smaller than their male counterparts.

Overcoming this issue needs to happen at its root cause: education and recruitment. Initiatives are needed to encourage and support more women to enrol in STEM subjects.

This can be achieved through mentorship programs and targeted outreach that showcases female role models in the industry.

But, while well-known role models like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, are easily identified, personally taking on the role of a mentor can have a bigger impact at the grassroots level.

Becoming a role model is not just about achieving personal success. It's about lifting others as you climb, ensuring that the path to leadership is accessible to all who aspire to it. Professionals who take the time to mentor play a crucial role in changing the narrative.

By sharing your insights, experiences, and guidance, you help build a supportive network that empowers women.

Challenge 2: Microaggressions in the Workplace

Microaggressions create a hostile work environment for women, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. Due to ingrained gender bias and stereotypes within the industry, women in tech are experiencing this issue more acutely than in other sectors.

Frequent encounters with subtle discrimination compel many women to alter their behavior to avoid further bias, a response particularly prevalent among Black and LGBTQ+ women.

This not only heightens their risk of burnout but can lead to higher turnover rates, depriving companies of the full contributions of their female talent. As an individual, you can help address this issue by adopting several strategies.

First, advocate for clear communication from senior leaders that microaggressions are unacceptable. This contributes to the development of a supportive company code of conduct.

You should also educate yourself — and others — to recognize and challenge microaggressions. This can be done by participating in or even requesting bias and allyship training within your organization.

Additionally, you can contribute to creating a culture of openness by speaking up about microaggressions when they occur. This will foster an environment where such issues are addressed constructively and transparently.

By doing so, you set an example and can help ensure that conversations around microaggressions lead to actionable change and a more respectful workplace for everyone.

"It's not just about creating opportunities for women: It's about unlocking the full potential of the tech industry to foster a dynamic, inclusive, and innovative future."

Challenge 3: Work-Life Balance

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is challenging when working in tech. The sector's inherent high stress, competitive nature, and global demands can lead to extended work hours and burnout.

Factors such as company culture, leadership, job flexibility, and individual work styles play a critical role. The rise of remote work, while beneficial in some ways, can exacerbate these issues by eroding the boundaries between professional and personal spaces.

Working parents face additional burdens like childcare costs and insufficient support systems.

Advocating for improved work-life balance begins by finding what balance looks like to you: the ideal routine harmonizes work demands with your personal life in a way that is personally satisfying and allows for both to be successful.

Prioritize tasks effectively: delegate and outsource when necessary both professionally and personally.

Emphasize flexibility in your approach, understanding that priorities can shift — balance is about making adjustments to ensure both work and life receive the attention they need over time.

Have an open conversation about your needs with your line manager; engage in or form employee resource groups dedicated to work-life balance; and champion policies that offer greater flexibility and support.

These actions can pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive work environment.

The Ripple Effect of Women in Leadership

Companies with diverse leadership teams, including a greater representation of women, are leading the way in creating positive and inclusive work cultures.

These top performers not only implement flexible work policies that are attuned to the needs of their workforce, but they also engage in proactive manager training that fosters well-being and growth.

Enhancing the representation of women in the tech sector is not merely a matter of workplace equity but a strategic imperative. Doubling the number of women in tech could bridge the talent gap in EU-27 countries by 2027, potentially adding up to €600 billion to GDP.

Additionally, companies with diverse executive teams, particularly those with higher gender diversity, are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability.

By elevating women to leadership roles and increasing their industry presence, organizations don't just improve workplace morale — they capitalize on a diversity of perspectives that are proven to amplify innovation, cultural richness, and profitability.

These measures are not just progressive: they're profitable, marking the inclusive environment as a definitive advantage in today's competitive marketplace.