Women in Tech Survey: 73% Experience Gender Bias in the Workplace

 SPR.
SPR.

A new survey by SPR finds that gender bias remains widespread in historically male-dominated fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with 73% of the women in those fields telling researchers that they've experienced gender bias in the workplace during the last year.

The survey also found widespread problems in terms of gender-based salary gaps, companies failing to act on reports of bias, the lack of gender bias policies for remote workers, lack of opportunities for advancement, the lack of women in leadership roles, poor training and other issues.  About two in five (40%) believe it will take ten or more years for the problems to be rectified.

To better understand their experiences and promote inclusivity and equality, SPR conducted a survey in December 2023 of 525 women from across the U.S. who currently work in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields and do not work for SPR. Job levels across respondents included analyst/associate (31%), manager (20%), entry level (17%), individual contributor (16%), and others (16%). Respondents ranged in age from 18-76 with an average age of 37.

In addition to finding that nearly three in four (73%) have experienced gender bias in the last year, 48% said they have heard of other women in their organization experiencing it as well. The most common experiences of gender bias include interactions with coworkers, promotion or professional advancement, and salary, the survey found.

“Male coworkers comment about the fact they’re surprised a woman can be so successful as a software engineer,” said a 32-year-old survey respondent. “I’ve had male coworkers who have doubted my abilities and then been surprised to see the efforts and quality of my work.”

When it comes to reporting problems and examples of gender bias, 14% told human resources about the experience. Among those who did, more than half felt the issue wasn’t adequately addressed by human resources or management, the study found.

Those who chose not to report instances of gender bias to human resources cited various reasons including thinking it wouldn’t make a difference, not knowing if it was a valid complaint, and that they didn’t feel comfortable reporting it, the researchers wrote.

In another important finding, the survey found that 50% of women in tech believe there is a gender pay gap at their company. Additionally, 2 in 5 feel men are assumed to be more capable than women at their workplace. “I have been passed up for promotion by men who have less experience than I do, to the point where I’ve begun to question my job,” one 58-year-old survey respondent told the researchers.

In addition, nearly 30% of women believe their workplaces don’t prioritize gender equality in their hiring and company culture and 18% think big improvements are needed for gender diversity in their organization. In fact, 40% believe it will take 10+ years before there’s equal gender diversity in tech, the survey found.

The researchers said that nearly half of respondents (49%) are fully remote workers while 38% are in hybrid positions, and 13% go into the office full-time. For those in hybrid or remote workplaces, 1 in 10 women in tech experienced gender-based harassment during a work video call, and 21% don’t have a remote work harassment policy at their company. More than 1 in 10 (11%) also report experiencing gender-based harassment over work emails or internal chats.

These problems also raise serious questions about the future of women in tech and the industry’s ability to attract and retain a more diverse talent base. The study found that when it comes to the future of women in tech, more than 1 in 3 (36%) of those surveyed said they plan to leave their job in the next 2 years.

The survey found that the top five challenges women in tech face in the workplace are:

  • Lack of opportunities for advancement (61%)

  • Lack of female role models (47%)

  • Lack of mentorship at work (42%)

  • Pay gap between colleagues (37%)

  • Lack of training resources  (30%)

“The biggest trend I have seen is the lack of women in leadership, and it has gotten worse since I started at the company,” a 29-year-old woman told researchers. “There have been big changes in the leadership, and the trend I have seen is women leaving, and men taking their places.”

While some may be considering leaving their jobs, the survey also found that many believe changes can be made to draw more women into the tech industry. These changes include: encouragement for girls and women to take STEM classes; flexible work schedules; and more female role models.

As for why most women went into tech in the first place, pay tops the list, the researchers wrote. Other reasons for working in the field include being passionate about tech, the flexibility of the jobs, job security, and the prevalence of tech jobs. Job perks that are keeping women working in tech include flexible work hours, working remote, and a generous paid vacation/holiday package.

"The results of our women in tech research study magnifies issues in our industry that continue to require our collective attention," said Stacy Fox, vice president of talent operations at SPR. "At SPR, we want to enable our women employees to get the visibility, experience, and exposure they need to build their social capital and expand their knowledge in their respective fields. We are pursuing new programs this year with these goals in mind.”

In male-dominated fields, women in tech have to balance more than just their job duties. At the end of the day, they are vital to bringing in new ideas and perspectives. The STEM field needs diversity to keep growing and expanding, and women are a key part of the future.

SPR describes itself as a technology modernization firm based in Chicago that works to create an inclusive and flexible work environment for all employees.

The full report can be found here.