Survey: Women in Tech Identify Wage Inequality, Workplace Gender Bias as Ongoing Obstacles

March 7, 2017
Wage inequality compared to male colleagues, workplace gender bias and a shortage of female role models are among the main barriers faced by women working in the technology field, according to a new survey by global technology association ISACA.

Wage inequality compared to male colleagues, workplace gender bias and a shortage of female role models are among the main barriers faced by women working in the technology field, according to a new survey by global technology association ISACA.

For the study, “The Future Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers,” ISACA polled 500 female members of its association, with 6 percent of respondents coming from the healthcare sector.

Women make up 40 percent of the world’s workforce, according to the World Bank, and that number is as high as 59 percent in some countries. According to Payscale, the technology field is male-dominated at all levels—only 28 percent of managers/supervisors in tech are women compared to 48 percent in non-tech industries and women only make up 32 percent of directors in the tech field compared to 49 percent in the non-tech industry. Further, only 21 percent of executives in tech are women compared to 36 percent in non-tech industries. In addition, according to ISACA, research has shown that more women lead to greater innovation and enhanced profitability. In a 2016 Peterson Institute for International Economics working paper, for example, researchers found that having women in leadership positions aligned with a 15 percent increase in profitability, on average.

However, according to Payscale, the gender pay gap is actually smaller in the technology field compared to the general population, but a gender pay gap does still exist.

According to ISACA, more than half of global executives say they face a shortage of capable tech workers, and with women holding only one in four technology jobs, the field lacks an immense amount of brainpower—and potential for innovation. To gain insight into what businesses can do to change this, ISACA conducted a study of women currently working in technology fields.

According to the survey, 87 percent of, or nearly nine in 10 respondents, are somewhat or very concerned about the number of women in the technology sector.

Respondents identified a lack of mentors (48 percent), as the biggest barrier they face working in the technology field, followed by a lack of female role models (42 percent), gender bias in the workplace (39 percent), unequal growth opportunities compared to men (36 percent) and unequal pay for the same skills (35 percent).

Of particular concern, only 8 percent of respondents say they have never experienced gender bias in the workplace. Another quarter say they rarely experience it, and 27 percent said they often or always experience gender bias.

When asked about opportunities for professional growth, 75 percent of respondents state their employer lacks a gender leadership development program. Additionally, 8 out 10 women report their supervisors are male. And, only 22 percent of women believe their employers are very committed to hiring and advancing women in tech roles.

When asked why it might be that women are so underrepresented in technology fields, respondents’ No. 1 answer is that information technology role models and leaders are predominantly male, the answer cited by 33 percent of respondents. Next, 22 percent of respondents said another primary reason is that IT is perceived as a male-dominated field and 14 percent said there is a lack of a work/life balance.

According to the World Economic Forum, today, many women earn just 59 percent of what men earn. While women in technology enjoy higher salaries than women in other fields, women in the technology filed are paid from 18 to 22 percent less than men, according to the report, citing data from Payscale.

In the ISACA study, fewer than one in every four women believe they are paid equitably with their male counterparts given equal skills and expertise. Forty-three percent of respondents say they are being paid less than their male colleagues with equal skills and experiences.

Globally, pay disparity remains a challenge with 25 percent of respondents from Africa, 29 percent from Asia, 53 percent from Europe, 48 percent from Latin America, 60 percent from the Middle East, 42 percent from North America and 80 percent from Oceania reporting that male colleagues tend to be paid more, without a clear reason.

The ISACA survey also examined whether women feel they are getting the tools, support and training they need to succeed in tech careers. The survey found that women are fairly divided on whether they are getting the right support they need to advance their careers. Although 57 percent say they are getting those important resources, 43 percent say they are not. Further, the same percentages play out when asked if they are being offered training to sustain or advance their careers—43 percent said no.

“The numbers are very similar when women are asked if they are getting appropriate feedback for their work. A margin of just 8 percent separated the women who say they are from those who say they are not. The net takeaway: too many women feel inadequately supported by their bosses, their environment and their companies,” the report authors stated.

“Women are vastly underrepresented in the global technology workforce. This is not only a societal concern, but also a workforce problem, given the critical shortage of skilled technology professionals faced by many enterprises,” Jo Stewart-Rattray, board director of ISACA and director of information security and IT assurance at BRM Holdich, said in a statement. “ISACA’s survey findings reinforce that there is much work left to be done. By providing more opportunities, including career advancement programs, we can make long overdue progress in ensuring that women are more equitably represented in the technology workforce.”

“As an industry, we must commit to changing these numbers and breaking down the barriers for women in technology,” Tara Wisniewski, ISACA’s managing director of advocacy and public affairs, said in a statement. “It is well past time to address these issues, and ISACA has a responsibility to help solve them.”

ISACA addresses the lack of networking opportunities through its Connecting Women Leaders in Technology program, which began in 2015 and connects women in the technology industry.

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