New research from Accenture and Girls Who Code (GWC) shows that, when taken as a percentage of the total U.S. workforce, there are fewer women in tech today than there were in 1984. Incredibly, 50% of women who take a tech role drop it by the age of 35. Something is clearly going wrong at a time when tech roles are more important than ever to the U.S. economy.
Given the lost potential, it’s essential that the tech sector attracts and retains more women. The research suggests that one thing above all else will make a difference: an inclusive workplace culture.
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Women thrive in inclusive environments where they feel encouraged, safe, and free to be creative. The impact is huge. The Accenture/GWC research found that in less inclusive workplaces, where women feel discriminated against or overlooked, the likelihood that women will advance to management roles is just 28%, compared with 40% for men — a difference that vanishes in more inclusive workplaces.
This trend holds true even more substantially for women of color and for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women, who typically face steeper barriers in tech. For instance, in more inclusive workplace cultures, the likelihood of women advancing to manager and beyond by age 30 increases by 61%; for women of color, it increases by 77%.
Five Cultural Practices to Build True Inclusivity
Many people are well aware that there isn’t as much diversity in tech as there should be, but change won’t happen unless we make it happen. The surveys and analysis conducted by Accenture and GWC suggest that five cultural practices can help attract and retain more women in tech.
- Let both parents parent. Having strong maternity and paternity policies in place is important for inclusion, but such policies are most effective if they are implemented in full and adopted by most parents. Women and men alike should be encouraged to take their leave to ensure equity. To embed this practice, it’s particularly important that senior managers lead by example. Based on the research, it is estimated that this practice alone, when fully implemented, could lead to around 385,000 women workers choosing to remain in the tech sector.
- Set a metric. Having female role models at the top of company leadership allows women to see a long-term future for themselves at an organization.