Closing the Tech Gender Gap: Who, Why, and How?

Tek Experts -

10 min read

Hiring diverse talent does more than improve diversity scores — It increases revenue, improves employee satisfaction, and drives innovation. Considering these benefits, it’s shocking this gap has become worse since the ‘80s.

On April 13, 2023, Tek Experts sponsored a virtual panel discussion on closing this Gender Gap, featuring female leaders from  Microsoft Leap, Forbes Media, and Tek Experts, hosted by Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA).

Our experts discussed how the lack of diversity in the tech industry, specifically the gender disparity, is impacting businesses, why it needs to be addressed, and what tech companies and leaders can do to encourage more women to pursue careers in tech.

Watch the webinar on demand or if you’re short on time, check out the highlights below.

What is the tech industry gender gap?

Currently, only 24-25% of technical roles are held by women, down from 35% in 1984. Considering 48% of the global workforce is women, this is a startling statistic. Additionally, only 22% of senior management in tech is women, 20% of women in tech over the age of 35 still hold junior positions, and only 18% of US computer science graduates are women.

Share of technology jobs held by women worldwide
Share of female graduates in computer sciences in the United States

Fortunately, the percentage of women in computer science programs is steadily increasing, but it will take years for this to impact the percentage of women in the tech workforce. What does this gender disparity mean for tech companies?

How is the gender gap impacting the tech industry?

Exacerbating the Global Digital Skills Gap

The first impact to consider is the ability to attract technical talent, which is already a major challenge for tech companies due to skills shortages, the Great Resignation, and other recent phenomena. With a global shortage of technical skills, the industry is experiencing very high numbers of open positions for developers, cyber engineers, AI specialists, and more. Employing non-diverse workforces means missing out on key talent pools that could make exceptional contributions to tech companies and the industry as a whole.

“Given that women make up 50% of the world’s population and the workforce potential, we’re missing out on enormous talent availability because they just won’t want to join companies that are not diverse.”

– Aileen Allkins, Chief Revenue Officer, Tek Experts

The percent of women in tech jobs is lower than their share of the global population and global workforce

Lack of representation makes attracting talent difficult because the culture can appear less inclusive to applicants, decreasing confidence in their ability to thrive within the workplace. Gen Z and Millennials both take the diversity of a company into consideration when deciding to work for or remain with an employer.

Gen Z and Millennials think diversity is important in the workplace

Underrepresented professionals already working in the tech industry in non-diverse companies often feel less aligned to the culture of their organizations and struggle to feel satisfied and engaged with their work. This is represented in the fact that women leave the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men.

Decreasing Business Performance

The inability to find and retain qualified talent consequentially impacts business performance, but that’s not the only reason the gender gap is costing businesses efficiency and revenue.

  • Businesses with more diverse management are 36% likelier to have improved financial performance.
  • Companies with less than ¼ of female board members are likely to have lower customer satisfaction.
  • Companies with more women in management positions experience 14% higher EBIDTA margins and 8% higher cash flow return on investment.
  • Diverse companies are 70% likelier to capture new markets and 45% likelier to report annual market share growth.

Not only do diverse companies have access to more perspectives and ways of working, allowing for greater innovation, but their employees are 7% likelier to stay with their organization. It’s no secret that high employee satisfaction often goes hand-in-hand with higher employee engagement and business performance.

Employees who are treated fairly regardless of age, gender, or race or more satisfied and engaged at work

What forms does bias typically take?

The Gender Pay Gap in Tech

Over the course of the last 30 years, we’ve seen numbers of women in technical roles decrease, and currently 50% of women leave technical roles by the age of 35. But why?

Gender bias is prominent in the tech industry and takes many forms. A hot topic is often the Gender Pay Gap, which requires nuanced measurements because an adjusted pay gap analysis only accounts for same role comparison and negates certain factors that may cause larger disparities, like differences in experience, education, and opportunities for promotion. Unadjusted pay gaps, however, give a more holistic view, including all of these factors that contribute to opportunity disparities.

With that said, US women in full-time roles still receive 3% less than men for the same roles at the same companies and earn roughly 80 cents for every dollar a man earns.

“According to Adecco Group, women of color suffer the largest pay gap [in the US]. Native American women represent only .03% of the tech workforce and earn about $0.60 on the dollar. Women who identify as Latina or Hispanic represent 1% of the tech workforce, earning $0.57 on the dollar while Black or African American women represent 3% of the tech workforce and are making $0.64 on the dollar.”

– Yolanda Natal Santos, Senior Business Program Manager, Microsoft Leap

When addressing pay equity, businesses need to look not just at equal pay for equal work, but leaders must consider how biases present when it comes to hiring, promotions, performance assessments, and other aspects of how men and women of all races are equally encouraged, supported, and given opportunities to grow their careers.

Self-Inflicted Gender Bias

While the gender pay gap and other biases must be addressed at a business level, they also must be addressed at a personal level. Imposter syndrome is common among many people, and could be a key reason that women leave, or avoid pursuing, careers in the industry.

“One of the things that I encourage women to think about when I talk to them today is to get out of their own way. Sometimes there may be a part of bias which is self-inflicted because we don’t see a lot of women role models around us, especially in the tech space.”

– Savita Bradoo, Chief Operating Officer, Tek Experts

As Savita highlighted, this self-inflicted bias is partially due to a lack of representation in tech companies and the industry. When underrepresented groups of people don’t see relatable figures in roles they aspire to fill, they may lack confidence in their abilities to achieve their goals and/or don’t expect to be given access to career growth opportunities and support.

“If you don’t see more versions of yourself, you start to doubt yourself… Do what you are passionate about. If tech is what you are passionate about, then don’t be intimidated and daunted by an industry which is ever evolving.”

– Savita Bradoo, Chief Operating Officer, Tek Experts

What can tech companies do to increase recruitment and retention of women in tech?

Encouraging STEM at a Young Age

Women, specifically in Europe, gain interest in STEM subjects around the age of 11 and lose interest at 15 years old. This quick turnaround means we’re losing key talent before they are even old enough to enter the workforce. Interestingly, not all STEM industries are created equal. Women in the US are 90% more likely to pursue careers in science than in technology, likely due to lack of representation and strong female role models in tech.

Tech leaders, both men and women, must be sure they are supporting young girls to pursue their interests early on, regardless of the small of amount of female role models to look up to. This can mean encouraging their daughters, nieces, and family friends on an individual level or investing in and supporting programs that provide whole communities of young girls with tools to grow their interest in tech.

But generating an interest in technology is only half the battle.

Providing Career Growth Opportunities

Once more women are interested in tech, how do leaders stimulate that desire to progress their careers in the industry? Not only must women be taught at a young age how to overcome imposter syndrome, but they must also be given opportunities to grow.

Many women are passionate about technology but unable to pursue a technical education. Don’t count these candidates out. There are many roles in technical organizations that do not require technical expertise or education but allow employees to grow through digital skilling programs and get certified in the technologies they support.

Women, and anyone with a strong passion for tech, should be encouraged to pursue their career and learn as they go. Programs like Microsoft Leap do just that. They give individuals an opportunity to develop key skills for pursuing a career in tech, regardless of background or experience.

“In order for us to truly be successful in the space, we have got to stop thinking of diversity as a one-time campaign, a check and done. Instead, diversity requires continuous work and development and cultivation of these programs.”

– Yolanda Natal Santos, Senior Business Program Manager, Microsoft Leap

Microsoft Leap sources, develops, and upskills untapped talent for employability into the tech industry. Tek Experts partners with Microsoft Leap to host this program around the world, focusing on increasing the employability of women. 75% of Microsoft Leap graduates through the Tek Experts partnership have become employed tech professionals, and 98% of participants are considered employable in the tech industry.

Microsoft Leap and Tek Experts 2022 Rwanda graduates
Microsoft Leap 2022 graduates in Rwanda.

Additionally, elev8, a Tek Experts sister company, is in the progress of launching a digital skilling program in 2023 specific to women in tech. Interested in learning more? Contact elev8 for details.

Cultivating an Inclusive Environment

While encouraging more women to enter and grow in the tech industry, we must also focus efforts on encouraging them to stay. Business leaders and all tech professionals must ensure they are supporting women in their career journeys, whether as fellow women or as allies, and be sure that business decisions are equitable.

“[Diversity and Inclusion] needs to be part of every decision that we make across the workforce, thinking about how we can become more inclusive.”

– Yolanda Natal Santos, Senior Business Program Manager, Microsoft Leap

What is the difference between mentorship and sponsorship?

A mentor is someone who provides advice throughout one’s career, contributing insights, constructive feedback, and strategies on how to advance professionally. They must be well equipped with industry knowledge and experience and have time and passion for teaching others valuable technical skills, power skills, and career growth tactics.

A sponsor is someone who opens doors, recommends someone for opportunities, and promotes and introduces them to other influencers in the industry. This person needs to not only have the industry knowledge, but also the power, respect, and connections to introduce someone to new career opportunities.

“A sponsor is somebody who trusts you, who feels confident in recommending you because they believe that you’re going to do a good job…a sponsor opens the door and a mentor helps you with what you do once that door is open.”

– Aileen Allkins, Chief Revenue Officer, Tek Experts

What roles do mentorship and sponsorship play in increasing the number of female leaders in tech careers? 

“When positions become available, very often they’re filled even before they’re posted… because we tend to hire people like ourselves and because of the lack of women in tech positions, we’re continuing this challenge of not having enough women coming into those positions.”

– Aileen Allkins, Chief Revenue Officer, Tek Experts

Up to 97% of employees with a formal mentor or sponsor strongly agree that their employer provides them with a clear career development journey. Mentorship is great for ensuring that women have the resources they need to succeed in their roles, but sponsorship is crucial for helping women progress in their careers.

Sponsors, both male and female, can provide better awareness of open roles to female colleagues, they can refer them, introduce them, and recommend them to fellow tech influencers and decision makers. However, a larger percentage of people have mentors versus sponsors, so highly qualified women are missing out on great opportunities for career advancement.

Who owns the responsibility for increasing diversity in the tech industry?

Everyone. It is up to business leaders to drive change in the workplace, but it’s also up to the individuals to be resilient and overcome imposter syndrome.

Individual Accountability

Individuals, in tech as in any industry, must be encouraged and inspired to overcome adversity for the sake of following their passion. Taking accountability for one’s career is necessary to succeed.

“You have to own it. Own your space and continue to push forward and don’t wait for anybody to do that for you.”

– Savita Bradoo, Chief Operating Officer, Tek Experts

Most leaders in the tech space want to increase diversity and see women succeed, but they don’t always notice the opportunities to sponsor or mentor an individual. That’s when women can take the initiative to drive their career forward. It is okay, and encouraged, for women and underrepresented individuals to ask for help and sponsorship for career advancement, and they shouldn’t be held back by a fear of rejection or failure.

“Ask [someone to be your sponsor] if you’re interested because a lot of people assume that someone doesn’t have the time or that they’re not interested or it’s a small item for them, but they might enjoy it. They probably have the time and you’d probably be the only one that asked.”

– Katie Delgado, Vice President of Software Engineering, Forbes Media

Business Leader Accountability

Individual accountability can only advance women so far, especially with existing biases and lack of encouragement at a young age.

Tech leaders must be diligent in identifying opportunities to advocate for those who want to grow their tech careers. They must encourage their businesses to invest in programs focused on empowering diverse workforces and put in the work to develop more inclusive environments.

What 3 key actions can businesses take to support women in tech?

Each of the panelists gave the number one action for businesses to take to increase diversity in the tech industry.

  1. Savita: Focus on hiring inclusive men as well as women, and work on changing the thought process for those who are skeptical. Since men make up a majority of the current tech workforce, they play a big role as allies in making a difference.
  2. Yolanda: Develop and invest in programs like Microsoft Leap that are dedicated to introducing untapped, diverse global talent into the tech workforce.
  3. Aileen: Encourage fathers to be mentors and sponsors of women in the tech workforce. This makes their support personal because they will have a deeper understanding of what their daughters will face in the workforce.

The gender gap is concerning, but change is possible. To learn more about how the gender gap is impacting businesses and what leaders can do to close the gap, watch the webinar, The Gender Gap is Costing You More Than Diversity, or download our eBook, Diversity and Inclusion in the Tech Industry.


John Ragsdale, Distinguished Researcher, VP Technology Ecosystems, TSIA

Katie Delgado, Vice President of Software Engineering, Forbes Media

Aileen Allkins, Chief Revenue Officer, Tek Experts

Savita Bradoo, Chief Operating Officer, Tek Experts

Yolanda Natal Santos, Senior Business Program Manager, Microsoft Leap

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