Women in tech

If you’re a woman in the tech industry, congratulations — you’ve made it against the odds.

Even though the tech industry in Europe has recently seen an employment surge of 43% and is predicted to grow at more than 5% every year until the end of the decade, women still only make up 22% of tech workers in European companies — and are even more underrepresented in senior roles.  

While this lack of diversity in tech may make you feel like giving up at times, it seems that things are finally looking up for women in IT as companies start to recognize the value of female tech leaders

Over 63% of Europe’s Fortune 500 companies ​have made a commitment to gender equality through the adoption of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5. Regardless of what’s driving businesses to embrace equality, studies have shown them how beneficial placing women in leading roles can be: Management teams with at least 30% women outperform those with less than 10% women, and companies with gender-diverse executive teams have a 25% higher chance of achieving above-average profitability. 

Marisol Menéndez, leader of WITH (formerly known as Women In Tech Spain), and our experts in tech recruitment share the key challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated industry, explore popular roles and career paths, and show you how to advance as a woman in tech

From Then to Now: The History of Women in Tech 

From Nicole-Reine Lepautre calculating the return of Halley’s Comet in the 1700s to female mathematicians working as “human computers” during WW2 and Mary Wilkes designing one of the earliest PCs in the 60s, women have left an indelible mark in the field of technology. 

Despite their significant contributions, women in tech have always found equality hard to come by. Just as they face in various aspects of life, women working in technology frequently encounter discrimination and inequality. 

The Gender Pay Gap and Leadership Positions

The bad news is that the gender pay gap is real: When assessing gross hourly earnings across industries, women earn 12.7% less than men in the EU and 13.5% less than men in the Netherlands.  

While exact data on the gender gap in technology isn’t available, a European woman in tech likely earns less on average due to underrepresentation in leadership roles.  

In the EU, women only fill 8% of CEO positions, and in the Netherlands, this number sits at 10%. EU companies also show an imbalance of genders on their board of directors, with only 31% of positions held by women. This number rises slightly to 38% in the Netherlands 

Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t look any better when focusing on tech, with LinkedIn data suggesting an overwhelming 93% of CTOs (Chief Technology Officers) in Europe are male.  

Marisol Menéndez believes empowering more female tech leaders is essential: 

“Even if a company has a good balance of male and female employees, there’s rarely balance in decision-making positions. The majority of women are at the base of the pyramid. To achieve gender equality in tech, we can start by getting more women into decision-making positions.” 

There’s a gap between men and women in senior tech roles: CIOs (Chief Information Officers) and other leadership roles are male-dominated. Compare the Netherlands to many places in Asia and you’ll see that we struggle to appoint female leaders.

Teresa Spinola, PageGroup Executive Director 

What Are the Challenges of Being a Woman in Tech

The challenges of being a woman in tech may start as early as the classroom, where science teachers have been found to ​​​​favor boys over girls when engaging in discussions in a US study. Unconscious biases like these could contribute to the fact that in the EU, only 34% of STEM graduates are female.  

Getting a Foot in the Door 

Women aspiring to start a career in tech encounter numerous challenges, including the initial hurdle of securing an entry-level position.  

Studies suggest that men apply for job openings if they meet 60% of the qualifications, while women tend to apply only when they meet 100% of the requirements. This disparity, as highlighted by Harvard Business Review, is not necessarily due to women lacking confidence in their abilities. Rather, female candidates often perceive applying for a position where they don't fully meet the qualifications as a potential waste of their time and energy. 

The Glass Ceiling 

Considering over 80% of job role transitions involve moving to a different employer, research indicates that promotions can be hard to achieve. Women working in tech are likely to face additional barriers and are four times more likely than men to consider gender bias as an obstacle to promotion.  

Harassment and Homelife 

Women often experience workplace harassment and also face inequality at home. When looking at CEOs and senior managers, 39% of women are the sole overseer of the household — whereas just 8% of men have the same responsibilities.  

Currently, around 7% of women drop out of the workforce due to caregiving responsibilities at home, a figure significantly higher than the 0.5% of men facing the same situation. Additionally, 25% of women cite a lack of work-life balance as a primary reason for leaving a career in the tech industry

While there’s still a long way to go, there’s hope that gender equality in tech is improving. Spain has recently made paternity leave equal to maternity leave, while Sweden has long been a leader in the field. Menéndez believes that these advancements, coupled with granting women greater autonomy in determining their schedules, could play a vital role in fostering equality both at home and in the workplace. 

Advancing as a Woman in the Tech Industry 

Having women in decision-making positions creates better results for a business. Diversity enriches — that’s true for all of humanity and it’s true for business.

Marisol Menéndez, WITH Leader 

With the growing acceptance that we need women in leadership positions, and more and more companies advancing women in technology, there’s finally momentum behind the call for gender diversity in tech. To improve your chances of securing a senior tech role, you should: 

  • Get Qualifications: Expand and improve your tech skills and soft skills through relevant courses, certifications, and professional development opportunities. 
  • Seek Opportunities: Look for organizations that offer mentorship programs and clearly defined career paths, as they’re more likely to prioritize your growth and advancement. 
  • Attend Industry Events: Participate in conferences, hackathons, and boot camps that not only help you develop your skills and knowledge but also provide excellent networking opportunities. 
  • Develop a Strong Portfolio: Maintain a concise and presentable record of your work, keeping it updated to showcase your expertise to potential employers. 
  • Network Effectively: Keep your LinkedIn profile updated and join organizations that empower women in tech, such as WITH. 
  • Collaborate With Recruitment Specialists: Utilize the expertise of recruitment specialists like Michael Page, which possesses an extensive global database of leading tech employers and can provide valuable guidance in your job search. 

With our expertise and extensive network of industry contacts, we’re perfectly placed to further your career in tech. By leveraging our support and tapping into our vast resources, you can proactively navigate the tech landscape and open doors to new and exciting possibilities. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, take action today. 

Different Roles for Women in Tech 

In rapidly expanding tech domains like DevOps and cloud computing, the representation of women remains disproportionately low. Menéndez believes the solution for getting women into a wider variety of tech roles is to create visibility: “By breaking gender stereotypes and showing women what the reality of working in certain tech areas like cyber security or UX is, we’ll be able to encourage more female applicants.” 

European women in tech are increasingly taking positions as: 

  • Data Analysts 
  • Software Developers 
  • Software Engineers 
  • Cybersecurity Specialists 
  • Information Security Analysts 
  • Computer Network Architects 
  • Computer System Analysts 
  • Web Developers 
  • User Experience (UX) Designers 
  • Scrum Masters 

AI stands out as one of the fastest-growing fields in technology, offering significant career prospects for ambitious candidates. To seize the opportunities presented by this industry's expansion, take a look at ​​our guide to job opportunities in Artificial Intelligence. 

Leadership Roles in Tech 

Despite the demand for more women leaders in technology, there still aren’t enough companies with female CEOs in Europe. For real progress to be made, tech companies must create an environment in which a higher number of women feel encouraged to apply for leadership roles. The appointment of more female CEOs, CIOs, and CTOs could help inspire women throughout the pyramid. 

Nowadays, some typical tech lead roles are changing. Hybrid positions like Chief Product and Technology Officer and Chief Digital and Information Officer are becoming more common. These composite roles require a collaborative mindset and a deep understanding of customers’ needs, qualities that female leaders naturally possess.  

WITH, previously known as Women in Tech Spain, is a thriving ecosystem comprising executive women who hold decision-making positions in the tech industry. Their primary objective is to raise awareness and generate opportunities that foster the increased representation of women in leadership roles within the tech sector. 

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