Female Exodus From Tech Jobs a Global Problem

By Barbara Frankel


“It’s getting harder and harder to find qualified tech womenthey are so in demand,” says Debbie Storey, Senior Vice President of Talent Development and Chief Diversity Officer at AT&T, No. 13 in the 2013 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity. AT&T is not alone. A recent report by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) shows serious gaps in retaining and promoting women in science and high-tech positions.

The report, Athena Factor 2.0: Accelerating Female Talent in Science, Engineering and Technology, is an update on a 2008 survey, and for the first time includes global information on women in Brazil, China and India as well as the United States.

The findingseverywhereare disappointing and reveal that multinationals have a long way to go to encourage women to stay in technical jobs.

For example:

  • Women in these positions are 45 percent more likely than men in similar jobs to leave within a year.
  • Although they no longer are usually the only women in their positions, they say they lack female role models (33 percent in the U.S., 53 percent in India, 22 percent in Brazil, 18 percent in China).
  • Seventy-two percent of the tech women in the U.S. see bias in training, compared with 78 percent in Brazil, 68 percent in China and 82 percent in India.
  • Sponsorship is critical to their retention and promotion. Of all the women surveyed, those with sponsors felt they were 70 percent more likely to have their ideas endorsed, 119 percent more likely to see their ideas developed, and 200 percent more likely to see their ideas implemented.

The CTI survey, led by economist Dr. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, was an online survey of men and women working in the “tech” industry, defined as companies whose main business is technology. It did not include industries that employ many technical and scientific people, such as the pharmaceutical or chemical industries. AT&T’s Storey points out, however, that technical and science jobs are now key to all industries, including consumer products.

“Career mobility is a big challenge. AT&T is a technical company and we have field operations. As women move up, they need to get that experience and high-potential opportunities often require relocation. That is challenging for women,” she says.

Close to 6,000 respondents in the United States, Brazil, India and China were surveyed. Respondents were ages 2560, with at least a bachelor’s degree and they were screened to confirm experience in science, engineering and technology at a private-sector company.

In addition, more than 60 one-on-one interviews were conducted with employees from the Center’s Task Force for Talent Innovation corporate members. The Task Force includes several DiversityInc Top 50 companies, including: Sodexo (No. 1), EY (No. 4), Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (No. 6), Johnson & Johnson (No. 10), Deloitte (No. 11), Merck & Co. (No. 12), AT&T (No. 13), KPMG (No. 23), General Mills (No. 26), Northrop Grumman (No. 29), Time Warner (No. 31), Eli Lilly and Company (No. 35), Bristol-Myers Squibb (No. 45) and NBC Universal (parent company Comcast is No. 49).

These companies, and others on the DiversityInc Top 50 list, have increasingly been using best practices such as formal, cross-cultural mentoring and sponsorship and use of employee resource groups in identifying and training talent to increase retention and engagement of women.

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