Are We There Yet?

What Does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mean for Women in Tech?

As of 2022, women hold only 26.7% of Tech related jobs. This number has decreased in the last 2 years. Why is this number so much lower than other industries? Let’s explore the complexity of gender diversity, the barriers that need to be removed, and the vision for what removing these barriers truly means. Not just in terms of the representation in Tech organizations, but also in terms of the business results.

I want to preface by stating that gender, as an identity, is a spectrum. Removing the barriers below will not only help women progress but also make Tech more diverse, equitable, and inclusive for gender-fluid, and gender non-conforming individuals. Anywhere you read the word “women” in this article, know that the data is lacking on diverse genders; further work needs to be done in this space.


When it comes to the main challenges and barriers women face, these are similar across industries. However, when you have an industry that is male-dominated, these issues become exacerbated. Women feel more alone and lose hope more easily when the environment isn’t inclusive.

When it comes to uncovering the barriers, it’s important to understand that some are easier to define, measure and target than others. The barriers that are invisible and difficult to measure are typically the ones that will have the biggest impact on a macro level.

Historically, DEI efforts within organizations place an emphasis on the measurable targets, however, a robust DEI plan needs to shift from a training and “check-the-box” approach to true education to shift mindsets and behaviours for change to happen systemically.

Below are the most common barriers we see in the Tech industry separated into the two categories described above.

Measurable Barriers:

Pay inequity- According to The State of Wage Inequality in the Workplace Report by Hired, men are offered higher salaries than women 63% of the time. This trend continues during internal compensation practices.

Underrepresentation– fewer women being recruited into Tech from both an educational and industrial level

The Broken Rung– Fewer women gaining promotion to leadership roles
Retention- More women, especially at the leadership level, leaving organizations because they want to work for companies where they aren’t overworked, underrecognized, and experiencing micro-aggressions.

Intersectional Inequity– Black, Indigenous, other Women of Colour, Queer Women, Women who are differently abled are even more underrepresented

Difficult to Measure Barriers (more qualitative & nuanced):

Invisible Gender Bias– stereotypes and both implicit and explicit beliefs showing up in the behaviour at the interpersonal and organizational level

Microaggressions– because of invisible bias, women being treated inequitably, often not being taken seriously

Macroaggressions– acts of sexism often overlapped with racism, homophobia, and ableism. This could range from comments like “you’re attractive for a {insert race}” to sexual harassment and abuse of power targeting women.

Invisible Rules– the unwritten, internal politics of how employees are rewarded and advance in an organization or industry. These rules stem from stereotypical masculine culture, passed down through masculine culture, and thus invisible to women.

Double standards—What works for men, backfires for women. Women are often told to “be more confident” or to “speak up” to remedy barriers the “broken rung” barrier mentioned above. However, women have a narrow band of acceptable behaviours relative to men. When women do speak with authority, they are questioned more rigorously, seen as “aggressive” or “difficult” for example.

Mentorship & Sponsorship – Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored. A sponsor differs from a mentor as they will use their power and put their name on the line to advocate to advance someone with less power. While men and women report having mentors at a somewhat equal proportion, the quality of these relationships differs. Women are being told to work on confidence, men are being groomed on business, strategic and financial acumen. Also, men tend to be sponsored more often than women (women being seen as “risky appointments”).

Impact of Underrepresentation– Women, especially Black, Indigenous, other Women of Colour and other marginalized identities feeling alone (often the only one in the room) plus a lack of role models that share their identity.


If we were to re-imagine the workplace so it was diverse, and inclusive, how would we know we were there? Here are some key milestones for Tech companies to integrate within their business vision:

Representation that reflects the world we live in at all levels of the organization. At minimum, we need to see a critical mass of women, especially leaders. Critical mass, also known as the “tipping point”, originates from Nuclear Physics. In Physics’ terms this is the point where the chain reaction can become self-sustaining. In the workplace, this is the point where the minority group (women of all intersections) aren’t forced to adopt the behaviours of the dominant group (white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, heterosexual men).

Retention + employee satisfaction & belonging scores for women of all intersectional identities- BIPOC, Queer, and Women with disabilities, etc. at similar levels to men, or the ideal target for the organization.

Strong pipeline of talented women in Tech, from children who feel welcomed to explore Tech programs, to formal educational institutions, through all levels of the organization. This includes those in Tech- centered roles and the functions that support Tech businesses. It’s not just about the specific skills, it’s also about the environment being inclusive.

Equity across the board- this includes pay equity (conducting intersectional pay audits both internal and external), benefit plans that meet the needs of all women, HR policies that are inclusive and flexible, infrastructure that supports women (ex. breast-feeding rooms, onsite daycare, sanitary products in restrooms, parking spots for pregnant women).

Business results improve – yes DEI is good for business! Whether you take a top-down, bottom-up approach to gender diversity, the business case is clear. Gender representation improves leadership, team, and business performance. Not to mention, stereotypical “feminine” traits (ex. Collaboration and empathy) are becoming more and more critical while stereotypical “masculine” traits (ex. command and control) are less conducive to a thriving, innovative tech business.

If you are a Tech employer who cares deeply about DEI and needs sourcing of qualified, diverse Tech talent, DEI coaching and accountability contact us here.

If you’re a woman in Tech who needs a coach, book a free intro call with Jasleen here.