“In high school, I was the only girl in my computer science class. In university, I was the only girl in my graduating class. I’ve had four or five different jobs [...] as a programmer and I’m always the only [woman] or the only programmer.”
– Driving Wintech Research Participant

We know the barriers women face in technology affects many aspects of their life. They may be the only woman in their tech class in school, in their job, or at their organization. Furthermore, they may feel excluded or be unable to reach their full potential in tech because of organizational structure, lack of opportunity, among other issues (For an in-depth overview of the barriers see Women in Tech World’s Gender Equity Roadmap). How do we remove these barriers, and are there different recommendations to improve women’s experiences in tech depending on where they are in their career lifecycle?  

Key Findings from The Career Lifecycle Framework

Women in Tech World developed a Career Lifecycle which outlines the different career stages for women, the approximate age range within each stage, and recommendations to improve women’s experience within the tech industry. To our knowledge, this framework is the first to identify different life stages for women in tech in Canada based on research from over 1,600 women and men. Creating this framework helped to identify the most effective initiatives to enable women in tech to thrive in their career.

Insight 1: Despite the recommendations being slightly different at each stage, notably mentorship was deemed to be essential at all stages . This may be contrary to the belief that mentorship is needed only during the time women are in school, or in their first couple months or years of their career. In fact, mentorship is recommended by women no matter their stage of life. This means that schools, organizations, volunteer groups, should use mentorship in their strategic planning to ensure women in tech are getting what they need.  Canada’s Gender Equity Roadmap includes in depth recommendations when it comes to the type of mentorship women need, depending on their stage of life.

Insight 2: One of the most interesting insights was that women might experience a “growth and revitalization phase” during the “influencer” stage of their career (approximate age 35-54). We found that during this time women often revisited the “exploration” stage (age 18-24). Essentially, it was a stage of life when perhaps women had become curious to learn more and gain new skills (after mastering a certain job or role). Because of this finding, we recommend organizational and nonprofit initiatives also include women in the influencer stage in development and educational programs.

Insight 3: Once women enter the workforce, flexible and supportive work culture were recommended. This was not surprising as women cited organizational culture as one of the biggest barriers. Women described the culture as being problematic because of the: “bro culture,” isolation, no one to relate to, men only cliques, etc. In terms of flexibility, women referenced the importance of appropriate family/parental policies. As a result, organizations should ensure that organizational culture is inclusive, that women feel welcome, and that the policies accommodate flexibility, and prioritize family leave.

Using this Career Lifecycle Framework, we can make personalized action plans for women in tech throughout their career. This is one of the most important first steps to making change and creating a holistic strategy to ensure the success of women in tech.

Take Action:

  1. Mentorship can be helpful for women at all stages, so always have mentorship as an initiative available for women.
  2. Women want to explore and are curious to learn more when they start studying or enter the workforce, around age 18-24, as well as later in their career (around age 35-54). Ensure that developmental and educational initiatives are not exclusive to the younger workforce.
  3. An inclusive work culture is imperative for women. Ongoing efforts to monitor and improve work culture are essential.
Visit Women in Tech World for the full report and insights.

 


Rebecca Factor is a writer and researcher for Women in Tech World, a Canadian nonprofit focused on community-based research to support and advance women in tech.