Article
3 minute read 21 April 2022

Women in tech are cracking the industry’s glass ceiling, achieving double-digit gains in leadership roles

Roughly one in four leadership positions at large global technology firms are expected to be held by women in 2022.

Susanne Hupfer

Susanne Hupfer

United States

Sayantani Mazumder

Sayantani Mazumder

India

Gillian Crossan

Gillian Crossan

United States

Women in tech are gaining ground as the technology industry—or at least its largest players—makes slow but steady progress in shrinking its gender gap, and women in tech leadership are making the fastest advances. Deloitte Global predicts that large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022, up slightly more than 2 percentage points from 2019 (see figure).1 Although the shares of women in technical and leadership roles have tended to lag the overall proportion of women by 8‒10 percentage points, they are increasing the most rapidly.2

With a growing body of research suggesting that diverse teams perform better and are more innovative, many technology, media, & telecommunications (TMT) industry leaders are recognizing that diverse workforces and executive teams are good for business.3 According to Deloitte’s estimates, women’s share in the overall global tech workforce has increased 6.9% from 2019 to 2022, while their share in technical roles has grown by 11.7%. Notably, the fastest growth—an estimated gain of nearly 20%—has occurred in the proportion of women in leadership. We predict that roughly one in four leadership roles at large global tech firms will be held by women in 2022, representing a rise of more than 4 percentage points since 2019. And in North America, the TMT industry now has one of the highest percentages of women on boards (second only to the consumer industry): 25% of board seats are held by women, up from 17.4% in 2018—helped by board diversity legislation in states with a high proportion of TMT companies, such as California and Washington.4

Many large tech companies have made public commitments to improving gender diversity, including increasing women in their technical and leadership ranks.5 These companies are also expanding their efforts to ensure greater workforce and leadership diversity by race, age, and other social factors. HP, for example, has pledged to reach 50% gender equality in roles at the director level and above by 2030, and to meet or surpass labor market representation for racial/ethnic minorities.6 Intel aims to double the number of women and underrepresented minorities in senior leadership roles by 2030.7

It makes sense that tech companies are moving the needle on women in leadership faster than women in other roles: It helps send a signal to prospective employees, it helps shift corporate culture, and it may help tech companies increase retention of women in their overall and technical workforces.

Considerations for tech companies

Many tech companies still have much work ahead to diversify their ranks and embrace a greater range of perspectives. Improving gender and other diversity should inspire the same kind of leadership commitment and strategic focus that underlies other critical organizational initiatives. 

Commit to a holistic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy. Creating an inclusive culture is essential to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. A 2020 study by Lenovo and Intel revealed that a majority of professionals in five countries regard a company’s DEI policies and performance as important considerations in their decisions about jobs to pursue and accept.8 Many large tech companies now release annual diversity reports outlining their strategies and performance. Some have formed a coalition to tackle diversity shortcomings in the tech sector, sharing best practices and lessons learned.9 To improve leadership representation, the members plan to develop guidance for board and executive roles that reflect the customers and communities they serve.10

Embrace goal-setting, transparency, and accountability. It’s critical for tech companies to identify diversity metrics, report results, and track progress. Then organizations can take stock of what is and isn’t working, revise their approach, and improve. Amazon, for example, examines performance ratings and attrition across teams to address any statistically significant demographic differences; the goal is to retain employees at similar rates across demographics.11 A coalition of more than 30 tech company executives, along with academics and DEI experts, has pledged to accelerate DEI progress and collaborated on an Action to Catalyze Tech report; one of the goals is to create industry-wide reporting standards for DEI demographic data.12

Establish creative programs to hire, retain, and promote. Raising a greater proportion of women to leadership roles in techrequires hiring and building a strong bench of female employees—but there are well-known STEM pipeline issues.13 Diversifying the pipeline is a commendable goal but one that will likely take many years of aggressive effort. In the meantime, some tech companies have established apprenticeships that aim to recruit and upskill unconventional talent, such as career-switchers who lack a traditional tech background, and “returnship” programs that provide training and mentorship to women resuming their careers after a pause.14 Companies may be able to improve retention of women and support their advancement to leadership by establishing mentorship programs and development opportunities, along with gender targets for promotions. However, according to Deloitte’s 2021 Women @ Work study, less than a quarter of TMT companies have taken these steps.15

  1. Deloitte conducted analysis and projections using data from the diversity reports published by 20 large global technology companies, covering their diversity data through 2020. See: Susanne Hupfer et al., Women in the tech industry: Gaining ground, but facing new headwinds , Deloitte Insights, December 1, 2021.

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  2. Ibid.View in Article
  3. Studies have revealed that companies in the top quartile for women on their executive teams were 21% more likely to report above-average profitability. See: Vanessa Fuhrmans, “Companies with diverse executive teams posted bigger profit margins, study shows,” Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2018; Stuart R. Levine, “Diversity confirmed to boost innovation and financial results,” Forbes, January 15, 2020; David Rock and Heidi Grant, “Why diverse teams are smarter,” Harvard Business Review, November 4, 2016.

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  4. Deloitte, Progress at a snail’s pace: Women in the boardroom: A global perspective , February 1, 2022; Deanna Oppenheimer, “Board diversity in 2021 ,” BoardReady, December 16, 2020.
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  5. SAP, for example, achieved its target of having 25% women in leadership by 2017 and is working toward a new goal of 30% by 2022. In 2020, Intel established a goal of raising women’s representation in technical roles to 40% and doubling the share of women in senior leadership by 2030. Amazon pledged in 2021 to expand the number of women in senior tech and science roles by 30% year over year.  See: SAP News, “SAP recognized by Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for second consecutive year,” press release, January 21, 2020; Sheryl Estrada, “Intel plans to double number of women, underrepresented groups in leadership,” HR Dive, May 18, 2020; Beth Galetti, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Amazon News, June 10, 2021.

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  6. Mary Ann Azevedo, “HP outlines ambitious diversity goals,” TechCrunch, May 20, 2021.

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  7. Intel, Corporate responsibility at Intel: 2019–2020 report , May 14, 2020.View in Article
  8. Lenovo and Intel, Diversity + inclusion in the global workplace: Topline findings , accessed March 2022.  

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  9. Angelica Mari, “Tech firms unite to advance diversity and inclusion in the sector,” Computer Weekly, May 4, 2021.

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  10. Alliance for Global Inclusion, “What is Alliance for Global Inclusion? ,” accessed March 2022.
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  11. Galetti, “Diversity, equity, and inclusion.”View in Article
  12. Aspen Institute, “Coalition of tech companies and academic experts launch unprecedented report to transform diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes within tech industry ,” press release, October 28, 2021.
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  13. Deloitte, Women in IT jobs: It is about education, but also about more than just education: TMT Predictions 2016 , January 13, 2016. 

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  14. Kristi Lamar and Anjali Shaikh, Cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion: How CIOs recruit and retain experienced women in tech , Deloitte Insights, March 5, 2021.

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  15. Deloitte, Women @ Work: A global outlook , May 19, 2021. 
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Thanks to Jeff Loucks, Jeanette Watson, Duncan Stewart, Brooke Auxier, Gautham Dutt, Rithu Thomas, and Shubham Oza for their support.

Cover image by: Jaime Austin

 

Technology, Media & Telecommunications

Deloitte’s Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT) industry practice brings together one of the world’s largest group of specialists respected for helping shape many of the world’s most recognized TMT brands—and helping those brands thrive in a digital world. 

Paul Silverglate

Paul Silverglate

Leader | Deloitte US Technology Sector

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