The technology industry has historically been dominated by the male perspective, particularly in key IT/ERP leadership roles. This has often led to limited perspectives, stifled innovation, and a lack of diversity, regardless of an organization’s size, complexity, or industry sector.

While there are more opportunities for women than ever in the technology landscape, business leaders must prioritize innovation, development, and support for women and other marginalized groups to drive and sustain business growth in the future.

In this case study, we’ll discuss the critical role of women in technology, offering a broader perspective on the acknowledgment of women’s knowledge, experience, and perspective in driving innovation and success and sharing firsthand experiences from women who have found success in the technology industry.

We’ll also discuss how current organizations, male and female leaders, and individuals are getting it right in terms of inclusivity, opportunities, and recognition for female contributions, providing a few key examples you can leverage at your company or in your own career.

The Current State of the Technology Workforce

The lack of diverse workforce perspectives exists due to systemic biases, unequal opportunities, and ingrained cultural norms within hiring and promotion practices. To close this gap, organizations must implement proactive measures, such as targeted recruitment strategies, inclusive leadership development programs, and equitable compensation structures. 

Embracing diversity and fostering inclusion is crucial for driving success and innovation because diverse teams bring together varied viewpoints, experiences, and problem-solving approaches, thus improving efficiency, productivity, and performance across a vast global network.

With a focus on fostering inclusive workforce cultures, investing in professional development opportunities, and leveraging collective perception, insight, and knowledge, organizations can continue to address the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry and celebrate their unique contributions, skill sets, and perspectives.

While unconscious biases still exist, by taking proactive steps to improve inclusion and opportunities for women in the workplace and recognizing their diverse role in driving success, organizations will be better equipped to find and build female leaders who will continue paving the way for future generations.

Understanding the Underrepresentation of Women in IT Roles

Although organizations have made a more recent push to improve diversity and inclusion across their workforce, women in technology are still underpaid, underrepresented, and discriminated against.

Here’s a closer look at the main workforce gaps and their root causes across the technology industry:

Employment gaps

While there is much conversation around diversity in the tech industry workforce, women remain underrepresented compared to their male peers, leading to missed opportunities for growth for individuals and diverse perspectives for organizations.

The lack of inclusivity for women in tech plays an integral role in the unbalanced ratio of women to men in technology roles. According to NCWIT research, over half of the women in tech change roles or leave the industry by the age of 35.

Degree gaps

The lack of diversity in the technology industry doesn’t start at company doors but is inundated into the higher education culture, where women only account for about 20 percent of new computer science degrees.

With a lack of diversity and inclusion across institutional STEM programs, women also have a higher dropout rate for technology classes, making it increasingly more difficult for them to get involved in tech and for tech companies to acquire educated women to fill critical IT roles.

While there seemed to be some improvement in the number of technology degrees granted to women over the past 10 years, recent data suggests that this rate has hit a bit of a plateau again. For example, 35% of women graduates entered the technology workforce in the early 1980s, while that rate has dropped to approximately 20% in the modern technology landscape.

Wage gaps

In addition to critical gaps in opportunity and promotion, women also make an average annual salary of $15,000 less than their male colleagues. The wage gap also increases with Black and Hispanic women, reporting an average salary of approximately $10,000 less than the already low salary for women.

Promotion gaps

A recent report by McKinsey showed that for every 100 men promoted to leadership positions, only 87 women reach similar roles. With a role in a more inclusive environment, women are 61 percent more likely to be promoted to senior leadership positions, and men even improve their likelihood of promotion by 15 percent in a similar environment.

Retention gaps

There is a trend in the technology industry commonly referred to as the “leaky pipeline,” making it difficult for organizations to retain women in tech jobs after they’ve graduated with a degree in a STEM specialty.

Without programs specifically designed to improve inclusivity and equity for women and their male counterparts, companies struggle to retain women in such positions and recruit other women to join a disproportionate workforce environment.

Representation gaps

The underrepresentation of women in tech positions can lead to limited mentorship opportunities and significant challenges associated with an unclear path forward. With this, 72 percent of women in technology report being outnumbered by men in critical business meetings by a ratio of at least 2:1, and 26 percent report being outnumbered by a 5:1 ratio.

This gap is often attributed to perceptive discrepancies, offering that employees not directly or negatively affected by issues with gender disparities don’t always recognize that they exist or understand their impact.

Mentorship gaps

Since its inception, the technology industry has been primarily dominated by men. Women in both higher-level leadership roles and entry-level positions often struggle to find sponsorship and mentorship opportunities, making it more difficult for young girls to become women leaders in the tech industry.

Companies looking to retain and encourage women to stay in the technology industry and work their way up the leadership ladder must place a stronger emphasis on mentorship opportunities, as women with mentors in STEM professions were 77 percent more likely to remain in tech roles after three years.

IT Leadership/Executive gaps

The gap in executive leadership opportunities for men and women in the modern technology landscape further enhances inequitable opportunities and reduces the likelihood of women staying in tech careers.

The aforementioned McKinsey report also shows that women leaders are stepping away from their tech roles to find jobs that offer more professional development opportunities and a more flexible work environment, allowing them to advance their careers more easily.

Workplace culture gaps

In addition to wage, representation, and opportunity gaps for women in technology, there also lies a great challenge in navigating toxic or unsafe workplace culture conditions. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 50 percent of female employees have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, while only 19 percent of male employees reported the same.

This gap in workplace culture conditions contributes to other misaligned metrics, such as:

  • 20 percent of women say the gender gap makes it harder to succeed
  • 36 percent of women say sexual harassment is a problem in their workforce
  • 43 percent of male-dominated companies pay less attention to gender diversity
  • 79 percent of women say they feel the need to prove themselves in their positions

The Role of Women in Technology

Inclusive environments cultivate better workforce engagement, encourage collaboration between lower-level employees and upper-level leaders, and ultimately lead to more innovative solutions that resonate with diverse customer bases and market segments and adapt to change more effectively.

Companies inspiring girls and young women to get (and stay) involved in the technology landscape give more women the opportunity to offer a unique perspective and revolutionize how critical processes are executed and managed.

Breaking Down the Impact of Women in Tech

Women workers and leaders play a vital role in the IT/ERP industry, bringing unique insights and approaches to problem-solving, which can lead to more comprehensive solutions, better decision-making, and a greater emphasis on workforce collaboration.

Additionally, women leaders across the IT and ERP landscape bring a different leadership style characterized by empathy, communication, and relationship-building, which can positively impact team dynamics and employee morale.

By incorporating women’s perspectives into strategic planning and decision-making processes, companies can better anticipate future challenges, identify opportunities, and adapt to market trends, ultimately driving long-term success and sustainability.

Learning from Those on the Front Line

Next, we’ll shed light on the diverse journeys of women in technology, exploring the triumphs, tribulations, and transformative impact they have made within this ever-evolving sector. From breaking stereotypes to driving change, their stories illuminate the path toward greater inclusivity and equity.

What Did the Journey Look Like?

From finding an early interest in technology at a young age to getting involved in an ERP implementation project on a whim, being reintroduced to the tech world in a new role, and stepping in to fill an essential leadership position that had been left vacant for a while, the experience has looked a little different for everyone. However, one thing remains: women are making their mark in a male-dominated technology industry.

“I found out that I didn’t truly LOVE accounting and was on the hunt for a position that allowed me to get involved in special projects and act as a liaison between our company and our clients. Finding my way into the JD Edwards space allowed me to find a role that was a better fit for my personality and challenged me to find new ways to improve the standard software implementation process.” – Senior Director, JD Edwards

Although the road to a career in technology, and particularly IT leadership, might not always be smooth, many women have overcome speed bumps, detours, and other obstacles to find their voice in the industry.

Female founders and women in higher-level leadership positions who have had the courage to stand against systemic discrimination throughout their careers have paved the way for the generation to come, showing young women that it is possible to be successful in the technology world.

“You’ve got to find a way to carve out an area where you can add value and feel good about the job you do every day to be satisfied. Once you learn how to deal with difficult people and situations and find your voice, you can do anything.” – Senior SAP Security Consultant

How Has Your Perspective Changed Over Time?

While most women’s experiences have looked a little different than their male colleagues, the differences that set them apart aren’t all bad. When we first think about being the only woman in a meeting room full of men with well-established careers (despite where we’re at in our own career journeys), we’re often met with a lack of confidence and feelings of intimidation. But why?

In male-dominated industries, when professional women walk into a room chock-full of men in similar or higher positions, they’re typically overlooked and overshadowed. Until they prove that they actually know what they’re talking about and are capable of whatever task they have been assigned, that is.

However, there are some cases in which male leaders do emphasize organizational support and inclusive leadership, leading to better experiences, greater productivity, and more opportunities for future advancement for both the men and women involved. Understanding the unique role of a woman’s perspective in a male-dominated industry and building the two-way street of inclusive collaboration is a win-win situation for individual employees and the organization as a whole.

“You just have to get over your fear of speaking up as the only woman in the room and strut your stuff. Once you realize that you deserve to be in that room just as much as anyone else, the validation of knowing you’re conquering uncharted territory is like no other.” – Senior Web Campaigns and Content Governance Manager

Women in technology roles have often been glazed over, giving up the spotlight for the men in the room and typically not given the credit they deserve for their effort, persistence, and drive to innovate. It’s the traditional mindset that men are the only employees that can handle certain tasks or hold specific leadership roles that has motivated women in the modern technology workforce to stand up for themselves and prove them wrong.

“People don’t expect women in the room to have the knowledge or technical skills to hang in a male-dominated workforce. All you have to do is walk in there like you own the place, have the confidence to speak up, say what you know, and blow people’s expectations out of the water.” -Senior Director, JD Edwards

Once women are given the opportunity to handle an issue or lead a project and they’ve proven they have what it takes, they’ll not only gain the autonomy needed to do their jobs and support critical organizational objectives but also improve manager, executive, and client trust.

Moral of the story: know your worth, find confidence in your abilities, stand up for yourself, and prove people wrong.

What Are the Biggest Challenges You’ve Faced as a Woman in Tech?

“In my younger years, I was tasked with giving a presentation about EDI transformation. When I walked into the room, the men looked at me with a sort of ‘what are you doing here?’ glance. After I’d gone through the presentation and explained the technology to them, they were all stunned, like they didn’t expect a woman to be capable of something like that.” – Senior Web Campaigns and Content Governance Manager

Gender discrimination is ever present in the technology world, whether dealing with a nagging coworker who will never see eye-to-eye, handling confidence-related issues, or getting told ‘No’ time and time again. But the real power lies in a simple question…How will you respond?

Do you respond with a ‘woe is me’ attitude and accept your position as inferior to the men? Or will you rise up and prove that you deserve to be in that position just as much as anyone else? Taking the latter approach helps to empower women to put up a stronger fight against gender discrimination, ensuring their knowledge and skills are accounted for in considerations for new roles or leadership positions and making it easier to stay the course, even when it gets rocky.

“The idea has always been that men are the only ones capable of running a technology department. For women to make their way into technology leadership positions, we have to understand the difference between ‘climb and kick’ versus ‘climb and lift’ and recognize how we can help others as we focus on our own climb.” – Former CTO of Wake County Public School System

What is Your WHY? What Has Kept You Fighting for More?

When navigating the technology industry and working your way up the leadership ladder in a male-dominated industry feels like a fight you might not ever win; you’ve got to find your way back to your WHY. Understanding what made you first get involved in technology and seeing your impact on the generations to come makes it easier to stay grounded, even when it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

“People don’t expect you to be good at what you do or know what you’re talking about. It’s fun to walk into a room and prove people’s expectations wrong.” – Business Analytics and Supply Chain Management Analyst

Whether your WHY lies in just paying the bills, having the opportunity to work from home, providing for your family, or being a mentor for young women, finding your purpose in the tech world and understanding your impact contributes to exponential return for both internal and external goals and initiatives.

“With my background in teaching, I’ve always been passionate about leading and mentoring other people. My WHY is centered around building relationships, leading other women, and using people’s strengths to create a more cohesive and connected team environment.” – Former CTO of Wake County Public School System

To be successful in a male-dominated industry, you must first recognize that you’re there for a reason, put up blinders against (sometimes) critical or judgemental colleagues, and keep working for what you want, despite who’s in the fight with you and who’s not.

Tips for Younger Women Entering the Workforce

  • Understand who you are and own it.
  • Be realistic about what you do and don’t know, and ask questions when you need to.
  • Find the power in your own voice, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • Connecting with people is how you succeed, so be sure to find good mentors.
  • The more questions you ask, the more relationships you can build, and the more you’ll learn.
  • Have a strong enough backbone to keep trying even after the first ‘No.’
  • Learn to be the expert in a specific area and make it your own.
  • Keep up with the pace of technology to stay ahead of your competition.
  • Be comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • The sooner you find where your unique strengths lie, the sooner you can find your purpose.

Connecting with Successful Women

As mentioned earlier in this article, the more connections you make, the stronger your network and the more prepared you’ll be to conquer difficult situations and find your voice in the tech world. If you’re interested in connecting with other like-minded women or finding opportunities to get involved in technology, our team at Surety Systems can help.

Contact us today for more information about women’s experiences in male-dominated industries or to get connected with our contacts across the IT and ERP landscape.