Gender Equality in Tech.
What can HR do?

How to Retain Women

Rose McCarter-Field

By Rose McCarter-Field

Did you know that women are twice as likely to leave the technology sector than men? (1) Does this happen in your company? Research has shown that there is something about the STEM sector that is turning away talented women in increasing numbers (2).

It’s hard enough to find talented women to apply for tech jobs, why are they so keen to leave once they get here? I’ve been reading a number of commercial and scientific studies on the reason women leave STEM and I’d like to share some common threads in the findings. Perhaps in understanding these commonalities we can discover how to create a more gender inclusive industry.

Sadly misogyny is still a recorded issue, there is also a less blatant ‘lads’ culture that has been recorded to make women feel unwelcome at work. In part, this is day-to-day communications but it has also been found in many mentoring programmes and promotion processes. Have a look at how gender inclusive the promotion prospects in your company are. How many women do you have in managerial and leadership roles? If the answer is few, and your female staff are predominantly in entry level roles, then your career prospects are not gender inclusive. (See the next article where I focus on this, as it is a prevalent issue in STEM.)

Astoundingly, the gender pay gap is still an issue. A male computer programmer for instance will earn on average 11.6% more than their female counterpart. A female engineer will earn 18.7% less.  In contrast to other sectors, a male in education will earn 2.4% more, a male procurement specialist will earn 0.6% more. (4) … You get the idea. It’s not an issue isolated to STEM, but STEM notably underperforms when it comes to the gender pay gap. Until this is solved, talented women will be able to earn more in other industries. If your company hasn’t fixed this yet, I urge you to put this at the top of your to-do-list for creating a gender inclusive company. Having a transparent pay and rewards structure will go a long way to ironing out these unseen inequalities. 

Many women at some point feel inclined to choose a realistic balance between a career and family, so giving benefits that make balancing work and family life easier will help you keep your top female talent. Netflix offers parents of any gender up to a year off with full pay after the birth or adoption of a child (5). While Microsoft and Airbnb offer 22 weeks to new mums with full pay. (5) 

An estimated 22,000 women have failed to return to the engineering sector (5) following a career break. Some companies offer return to work programmes to help the move back into work, as well as fill the skills gap to ‘catch up’ with their male counterparts who haven’t had a career break. Alongside this, statutory parental leave now encourages new fathers to share childcare within the first year, enabling women to return to work earlier, if they would like to.

Many companies are embracing formalised flexible working policies, regardless of gender, as well as the option to work from home. This improves the quality of life for all employees, especially parents. It also enhances your appeal as an employer.

There are many factors affecting the gender balance in STEM. Aspects such as pay, an inclusive culture, career prospects and flexible working seem to have the biggest impact in balancing out gender equality. It’s important to also be aware that diversity without inclusion is a recipe for failure. Just having women in the team doesn’t mean you have an inclusive culture. You’ll need to cultivate and maintain an inclusive environment at all levels, for diversity to last. 

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Part 4: How to Promote Women – coming soon! If you’d like this series of articles sent to your inbox, sign up here. Or come back in a week when I plan to post the next in the series.


    1. Forbes 2020–from-the-cofounder-of-the-grace-hopper-conference/
    2. Rose McCater-Field 2021
    3. Guardian 2019
    4. Glassdoor 2019
    5. WES 
    6. VOX 2018
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How Do We Get More Women in Tech?
Practical Steps for Leaders

A talk by Rose McCarter-Field and Laura West Project Recruit and Escalla

17th June 11.30am BST


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