Women in Tech: “We have to do better and we can.”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Megan Headley, VP of Research at TrustRadius.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Three years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Megan Headley, VP of Research at TrustRadius.
Today’s Woman in Tech: Megan Headley, VP of Research at TrustRadius
Megan leads Research at TrustRadius, whose mission is to ensure TrustRadius delivers high quality, useful and, above all, trustworthy user feedback to help prospective software buyers make more informed decisions. Before joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at Stratfor, where she was in charge of growing the company’s B2C revenue stream through email marketing and other channels. She enjoys traveling, reading, and hiking.
New Research Shows Women in Tech Were Hit Hard by the Pandemic
72% of women in tech have worked at a company where “bro culture” is pervasive. The majority of women are still outnumbered in business meetings. Most women in tech feel they have to work harder than their coworkers to prove their worth. Add on completely new challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and you have a very serious situation for women across the tech industry today.
According to new data from the TrustRadius 2021 Women in Tech Report, women in tech are facing disproportionately negative impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. We asked Megan Headley, VP of Research at TrustRadius, to help us understand some of these issues.
What do you think is the biggest challenge women in tech face right now?
I would say work-life balance. 57% of women feel burned out at work right now due to the pandemic, and we were honestly surprised that number isn’t even higher. (For context, 36% of men felt the same.)
After seeing the data, we think that burnout is related to some of the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic—which has required women to work even harder at work and at home than they did already. Women in tech are now working more overtime and taking on more responsibilities at work on top of the increased burden of childcare and household work. It’s a lot for anyone to handle.
Which of the new stats in the 2021 Women in Tech Report surprised you the most?
We were surprised that gender equality really hasn’t changed all that much in the past year.
When we asked our community to comment on this issue, we figured we would see a shift one way or the other. But it looks like the shift to remote work didn’t have a major impact on how tech professionals perceive gender equality at their companies. Most of our respondents (of all genders) said that nothing had changed in the past year.
It was also surprising to see that most executives also think gender equality hasn’t improved at their companies. Leaders are in a unique position to create change. If they’re not taking strong action in that direction, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see real progress.
Leaders are in a unique position to create change. If they’re not taking strong action in that direction, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see real progress.
Do you think remote work has helped women in tech?
That depends on who you ask! Our community was split pretty evenly on whether remote work has had a positive or negative impact. 42% of women say positive, 41% say negative, and 17% say there was no impact.
We can interpret those results from a couple of different angles. It’s possible that the shift to remote work placed women who care for children at home in an impossible situation. Women without children at home may have seen more of the benefits of working remotely.
We also saw a difference in the data by department—53% of women in engineering say remote work has been positive for women in tech. But fewer women in marketing, sales, and customer service agree. We’re not sure what this says about what it’s like working in these departments during a pandemic, but it’s definitely interesting.
We know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionately negative impact on women. What does your research show on how and why this happened?
When the pandemic began, I think everyone who studies these issues was afraid it would have an unequal impact on marginalized groups in the workplace—including women, nonbinary people, people of color, and people with disabilities. Our research shows that at least for women in tech, that turned out to be true.
We found that women in tech are nearly twice as likely to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic. They’re also more likely to have taken on a greater share of the household work. 42% of women say they took on most of the childcare/household work when the pandemic hit, compared to only 11% of men. That means more than 2 out of 5 women are now struggling with increased responsibilities at home.
On top of the challenges women already faced in the tech industry—including sexism, lack of leadership and mentorship opportunities, and being seriously outnumbered—these issues can be extremely challenging.
Many companies struggle with knowing what to do about these challenges. What practical advice do you have for other leaders who are struggling to help?
All D&I work is a process, and you have to dedicate yourself and your company to making it happen. You have to commit. That’s the first step—getting your fellow leaders and your entire company on board with creating change.
After that, there are a few things you can do. Most of the women we surveyed wanted their companies to hire more women in leadership positions. So you’ll want to make sure that you’re proactive about recruiting female applicants. If you primarily rely on referrals (especially for upper-level roles), you should consider whether the limitations of your network are creating a bias in your applicant pool.
It’s not just about recruiting, though. It’s also about making sure women are supported and empowered after they get hired.
It’s not just about recruiting, though. It’s also about making sure women are supported and empowered after they get hired. A lot of that has to do with fair pay. At TrustRadius, for example, our HR leader conducted a company-wide salary audit to ensure that all of our employees were being paid fairly. At the end of the day we did end up making a couple of salary adjustments, and we saw that as a great opportunity.
There’s also a lot you can do to improve the culture at your company. Many of the women in our community wanted their companies to complete unconscious bias training, so that’s a practical place to start. We also know that “bro culture” is still a serious issue for a majority of women in tech—especially those in sales and marketing. So I would recommend devoting some attention to identifying and addressing those behaviors on the ground.
Overall, the point here is to take action. Many companies make a public statement (internally or externally) and then never do anything to create change. We have to do better and we can.
More Women in Tech:
- Women in Tech: “The prerequisite is pleasure in problem-solving”
- Women in Tech: “Join meetups and other women tech groups”
- Women in Tech: “Degrees can matter but they aren’t required”
- Women in Tech: “The IT sector requires a lot of energy and will”
- Women in Tech: “I got to be a self-taught, self-managed, problem solver”