New Capital One Survey Shows How Companies Can Retain More Female Technologists
Sustained low unemployment rates continue to exacerbate a longstanding talent shortage in the tech industry, with reports from NCWIT forecasting 3.5 million unfilled job openings in the sector by 2026.
Efforts to expand the pipeline by bringing in more non-traditional female and minority candidates are beginning to help turn the tide. But one unheralded opportunity to close this tech workforce gap might be to address the more than 40% of female technologists that leave the field mid-career to pursue other opportunities.
To help uncover why women remain in tech careers, a new Capital One study compared the experiences of women that have stayed in the field for at least eight years against those that have moved on to new careers after three or more years. In many respects, the motivations are what you’d expect, but it also clearly identified the key factors that help female technologists overcome lower pay, unsupportive bosses, and other issues that have often plagued women in the workplace.
Julie Elberfeld, SVP of Card & Small Business Technology and Tech Diversity & Inclusion for Capital One, said the findings are important because retention is an important corporate strategy for ensuring the health and competitiveness of a company’s technology team. She also noted that beyond identifying how to build robust retention strategies, the survey helped “destroy the myth and stereotype that women don’t like tech.” Puncturing that myth is critical to both keeping female tech workers in the workforce and attracting young girls and women to the field.
Many of the reasons that women cited for staying or leaving their careers will feel familiar to people in any industry. Fifty six percent (56%) remained in tech because they were good at their work. Enjoyment working with other technologists (44%), fair and good compensation (41%), and the flexibility to achieve work-life balance (39%) were also important contributors to remaining in the field.
Conversely, women that had left tech careers said weak management support (23%) was the top reason for their departures. Other motivating factors for leaving included a dearth of opportunity (20%) and a lack of work-life balance (22%).
Interestingly, 73% of women who chose to stay in tech for the long-term said they had considered leaving at some point due to workplace challenges such as limited advanced opportunities (27%), unfair compensation compared to peers (25%), and little support from management (22%).
But those that ultimately attained senior level technology positions attributed their success to two things: grit and a sense of purpose. Over 90% of women reaching senior positions said they were confident in finding solutions, had an ability to persevere, and attributed their strong sense of purpose to personal satisfaction and work success.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the survey were three X-Factors that demonstrated a stark difference between the experiences of the women who stayed and those who left tech careers:
● Role models. Among women who stayed in tech, 75% had women role models at their company, while 44% of women who chose to leave tech did not.
● Peer groups. Women who stayed and succeeded in tech are twice as likely to say that peer groups of other women, both within and outside their companies, is very important for work success (45%) compared to women who left (23%).
● Training. Of the women who stayed and succeeded in tech, 56% agreed or strongly agreed their training was superior to their peers, compared to only 34% of women who left tech.
Elberfeld said the findings and these X-Factors lay out clear steps for how companies can better retain female tech workers. She also said the message must come from the top that company leaders value women as key contributors to the health of the company. This support must take the form of a dedicated resource rather than organic or volunteer programs.
Ultimately, the survey shows that companies wishing to remain competitive by attracting or keeping more female tech workers must find ways to provide them with challenging and rewarding work, fair pay and a clear path for advancement, the right training at the right time, and opportunities to connect with mentors and peer networks.