Five Ways to Attract, Engage and Retain Women in Tech

Asia-Pacific is a region on the rise – the IT industry is expected to grow at a rate of 8.3% over the next five years. However, around 60%-80% of APAC organisations find it difficult to fill vacancies in many IT roles. With gender parity in the tech workforce still some way off, it’s clear there is a huge, untapped opportunity.

FDM Group has revealed its top 5 tips for attracting, engaging and retaining women in the industry.

The economic benefits of women in tech

The Alpha Female report, published recently by Bank of America, found that companies in Asia-Pacific with a higher proportion of women in management, on average, outperformed by 26 per cent over a five-year period. But the gender pay gap persists.

Greater female participation would help address the already significant skills shortage in the tech workforce, but it is not just about equality and equity. Diverse teams are more likely to generate innovative ideas and solutions, leading to more creativity and improved problem-solving.

A spokesperson for FDM comments: “Women make up some of the most skilled professionals in the industry and by failing to attract, engage and retain women in tech, businesses are losing out.”

On comparison, companies with high gender-diversity outperform and deliver better financial returns. Those that hire and retain more women automatically gain a competitive advantage, a benefit that extends to all stakeholders.

Advancing women’s employment could add $12 trillion to global GDP and boost some countries’ economic output by as much as 35%, yet global progress is stagnating. The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Gender Gap Report rather gloomily predicts it will take 151 years to close economic gender gaps.

FDM’s five ways to attract, engage and retain women in tech:

1. Take action to address the gender pay gap in your organisation

The Alpha Female report found that in Asia, on average, females earn 83 cents to every dollar that males earn. Women will not be attracted to an industry where people are being paid differently for work of the same or comparable value. To tackle this, it’s crucial that the industry undergoes a transformation in its attitudes and practices.

To confront gender stereotypes many companies are implementing blind recruitment processes to reduce unconscious bias in hiring. Others, such as FDM, are introducing mentorship programmes and workshops to provide professional development opportunities for women to build networks and develop new skills in the tech industry.

An important first step for companies is to identify their gender pay gap and look at the measures and responsibilities for reducing it. Documenting any findings and progress in an annual report will demonstrate transparency and accountability to the public, and existing and prospective employees.

2. Create an inclusive work environment

Workplace discrimination and unfair treatment are some of the leading reasons for women to leave the tech industry, meaning inclusivity should be a top business priority for all organisations. It not only has implications for employee happiness and job satisfaction but also has legal obligations to treat all employees fairly and impartially.

Incorporating gender inclusivity into the workplace creates a sense of belonging for your employees, and feeling more valued, leading to higher levels of satisfaction and happiness.

Studies have shown that, depending on the organisation, happier teams can be anything from 12% – 37% more productive. Businesses benefit from increased revenue, reputation, and retention.

To build a truly inclusive workplace, encourage collaboration between men and women in teams to capitalise on the full spectrum of talents and points of view. Gender-neutral language should be used in marketing materials and job listings, as well as impartial hiring practices and merit-based appraisal processes.

3. Implement representation at all levels

Advocating for female representation in senior leadership positions is a key part of creating an inclusive and successful work culture. One of the main contributors to such a large gender pay gap in tech is the lack of female representation in senior and higher-paying roles.

Globally, less than a third of leadership positions are held by women, a figure that has scarcely changed in the last 7 years. In APAC, female representation in leadership is varied but consistently less than 50% – with Singapore one of the leading countries 42%, followed by Australia with 33%.

Furthermore, having female role models in leadership inspires junior female teams, who have reported that role models are important to their career success.

Additionally, increasing female representation will help reduce the ‘only’ experience felt by many women in the professional world, which can lead to feelings of alienation, having their ideas challenged or receiving derogatory comments. Ultimately, having more women in higher-paying, senior positions will foster a healthier work environment for everyone and help reduce the pay gap.

4. Provide family-friendly work benefits

In today’s job market, employees seek more than a decent salary; workplace benefits hold greater value. Remote work, private healthcare, and flexible hours are popular benefits, but preferences may vary depending on demographics.

To attract and retain female employees, it is crucial to understand their desired policies and benefits, particularly those that address unique challenges such as maternity leave and family responsibilities. Family-friendly benefits, including breastfeeding rooms, maternity leave and pay, flexible hours, remote work, and childcare facilities or expenses, can improve job satisfaction.

Sociology experts have termed the “motherhood penalty,” which highlights working mothers’ disadvantages compared to childless colleagues. Issues related to pay and perceived competence can lead to fewer commitments and dependability. Thus, family-friendly benefits should be an integral part of a company’s job offering to appeal to candidates choosing between companies.

5. Invest in mentorships, internships and apprenticeships

In many Asia-Pacific countries, women make up a majority of university graduates, but they are still in the minority when it comes to completing STEM degrees.

Programmes such as mentorships, internships, and apprenticeships can be valuable tools in encouraging women to pursue careers in the technology industry. Given the gender disparity in STEM education, offering alternative entry routes is particularly important.

Having a mentor can provide much-needed support and guidance, especially for minority groups who can benefit greatly from having role models to learn from. Studies also show that mentorships can boost job satisfaction and confidence among employees – with 91% of workers who have a career mentor saying they are happy in their jobs, and 89% stating they believe their contributions are valued by their colleagues.

Internships and apprenticeships can also help women gain a better understanding of what a career in tech entails before committing to full-time education or a job in the field. Similarly, apprenticeships present an excellent opportunity to enter a specific industry and gain practical training.