How can women help fix Europe‘s tech talent gap?
Women only represent 22% of those working in tech roles across Europe. Increasing this number could help to push forward technology innovation. Women consistently show interest in tech and STEM subjects at school – however, only a limited amount of them end up working in tech. Why is that? The finding that women are underrepresented in tech professions is not news in itself. But the depth of detail of the McKinsey Digital research is. The study is the first extensive end-to-end funnel view and migration from STEM education pipeline to the tech workforce for the EU-27 countries (with granular insights at each stage). It combines a unique and rich data set (proprietary database incl. 60 million workforce profiles) with quantified recommendations on how to increase the female share.
Problem at hand: Two major drop-off points for women in European tech
Europe is lacking competitive advantage and growth due to a technology gap. As a consequence, Europe faces economical, societal, and innovation downsides. But women can help fix European tech's talent challenge.
When looking at tech talent, we significantly lack women across all stages. Women are historically underutilized and according to the research, the biggest chance for European tech companies is to attract and retain more women.
During primary and secondary education, there are no indications that girls lag behind boys in STEM classes. In fact, in Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia, and Sweden, girls slightly outperform boys in science and math tests.
Despite this fact, there’s an 18-percentage-point drop in girls going into STEM disciplines when they go to university. The drop is even more dramatic—31 percentage points—when analyzing young women going into ICT disciplines. Reasons for the unequal development lie primarily in stereotypes and false societal perceptions of girls' STEM abilities vis-à-vis boys.
The leap from university into the professional business life marks the second drop-off point: Only 22% of people working in tech roles identify as women. The most in-demand roles, e.g., DevOps and Cloud, lack even more women and only show a share of 8%.
What can be done to fix the female tech talent gap
Addressing this shortfall is about much more than doing the right thing; it’s an economic necessity. There is no silver-bullet solution, but according to the research, a more nuanced approach across 4 main levers is important.
- Reframe – Enable women in tech to thrive at work
- Retain – Give women a reason to stay in tech
- Redeploy – Ensure women are in tech roles that matter
- Ramp-up – Address STEM drop-off in university
Sounds like a lot of work to do. Where can companies start? A comprehensive plan that actively addresses the pain points and needs of women is a good first step. More than two thirds of women in tech roles still feel like they need to work harder and prove themselves because in comparison to their male co-workers.
Reducing isolation of women in tech roles by ensuring multiple women are working in the same location can help, as does instituting broader support networks, supportive HR policies, and effective sponsorship.
Men can contribute here through active sponsorship in the form of advocating for women and opening doors to sponsors’ networks.
Improving flexibility at work can have a profound effect on addressing women’s needs as well. You can learn more about levers to reduce inequality in the full article, “Women in tech: The best bet to solve Europe’s talent shortage”
What can be the impact of more women in tech roles
The authors are convinced that by joining forces across public and private sector and working across the 4 R’s, we can retain and gain +1.6-3.9 million additional women into European tech until 2027. The share of women would increase from 22% to 45%. Even more than that: If Europe could double its share of women in the tech workforce by 2027 they could increase GDP by as much as 260bn – 600bn Euros.