Talent Drain – 4 reasons why women leave tech jobs

CEO of Actus, Lucinda Carney was recently asked to facilitate a session at the Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference on why women leave tech jobs. During the interactive session, that received an excellent turnout of 200 plus delegates, Lucinda was shocked to discover and able to gather real insight as to why the statistics for women staying in tech jobs are so poor. Combined with her own pre-facilitation research, Lucinda has summarised the four key themes revealed as to why there is a female talent drain in the tech space.

1. Lack of career prospect

Based on research conducted by the Centre For Talent and Innovation, it was found that females did not feel they had the opportunities that their male counterparts did within tech jobs. Furthermore, if they went for roles that their male counterparts also applied for, they were less likely to get the role themselves and were not invited to apply for similar jobs.

This theme of unfair treatment was discussed at the recent Conference that Lucinda facilitated at, and she believes that partly the responsibility lies with Senior Managers being the ones asked who should be selected for certain jobs. She points to these Managers as having an inherent bias, or just not knowing how good certain people are. This could be down to the woman’s manager not promoting them, or them not putting themselves out there to promote themselves, thereby only reinforcing a habit of the status quo.

Lucinda believes that to counteract this issue, perhaps what we need is greater visibility for the selection to take place through the use of systems to reduce human bias.

2. Subordinate Bias – being given the ‘glue jobs’

The term ‘Subordinate Bias’ coined by Lucinda herself during the tech Conference refers to women in tech roles, in particular, saying that they felt as though they were always treated as a subordinate. A term came across for this during the facilitated session, that women in tech were always given the ‘glue jobs’. An example of a ‘glue job’ would be – you’re the only female in the meeting, could you take the minutes? These more menial tasks could be responsible for taking away from women’s opportunities for professional development within tech or the chance to be seen in a more elevated light. It’s not surprising in such instances, that women would want to leave tech roles to find jobs that were more rewarding and presented greater opportunities for professional development.

3. Lack of a Role Model or Mentor

Another theme that came up was the lack of role models or mentors in the tech space. One woman at the recent tech event pointed out that even those that did get to a position of becoming a female role model were going to be in the minority and can’t be a role model or mentor for every woman in the business. So we have to look towards men too. If you put all the onus on that one female role model, you’re going to break her eventually.

4. Personal criticism

The final key theme that came out of the session was one where people gave examples where they left tech jobs because of taking criticism personally due to the poor delivery of feedback given. For example, the feedback would have been different if you were a man or a woman. A woman may receive the feedback that they were a bit aggressive in that meeting, as opposed to a man being told that they were being assertive or driving things through.

It was also reported that when having appraisals, people were making valued judgements which were derogatory or over-portraying their femininity as opposed to their capability and their professionalism to do their job. Of course, the role of the manager is never a simple one and training is required to get around issues, such as this which are often innate, unconscious perceptions.

So these are the four themes that came up as a result of the research findings and open discussion that took place at the tech Conference. However, it was not all doom and gloom. There were a number of really inspiring stories by women praising certain tech firms that have helped women to develop their careers and are encouraging women to stay in these tech jobs.

4 Key Areas To Help Tech Firms Reduce The Talent Drain

Lucinda points to four key areas which could help tech firms to reduce the talent drain and stop women from leaving tech jobs.

  1. Providing Training: Giving women the self-confidence to say no to ‘glue jobs’ and to find an appropriate response for them to kindly not do the activity or push back. Also training managers on how to give quality feedback so that it isn’t taken as a personal criticism.
  2. Mentoring/One-to-Ones: By pairing people up within the workplace and allowing them to build a relationship, also using structured one-to-ones this gives people the opportunity to interact where they would normally not do and we can all learn from each other in this way. Pairing people up that are different, that don’t think in the same way and allowing them to share their challenges in the workplace can allow for real insight and knowledge sharing.
  3. Setting Rules of Conduct: This could include making sure that meetings are chaired and ensuring that roles within the meeting are rotated around so that women do not feel talked over or that they have been given a glue job all the time.
  4. Having A Work Pal: An idea from a lady present at the Conference was to have one or a couple of ‘pals’ or work friends that act as allies on your behalf, that can shout about your successes where you may feel too embarrassed to do so and in turn may help others see your value.

This blog was inspired by The HR Uprising Podcast hosted by Lucinda Carney. You can listen to the podcast via this link. Alternatively, if you would like more information about how to manage talent more generally within your organisation, why not take a look at our white paper ‘How to develop a Talent Management Strategy‘.

You can find out more about Lucinda’s session at the Women of Silicon Roundabout Conference by reading this blog https://www.europeanwomenintech.com/blog/why-are-women-leaving-technology-jobs

White Paper: Talent Management Strategy