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Speak Up 2024: Amplifying Women’s Voices In Our Transformative Tech Era

Meredith Graham

Meredith Graham
Chief People Officer, Ensono

We’ve experienced a turbulent few years in the business world. The once-booming economy fell stagnant, the Great Resignation turned into reductions in workforce, remote work policies became return-to-office mandates, and generative AI emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

We’ve heard plenty about the impact of these changes on the tech workforce as a whole. But what about women in tech who face specific barriers — from gender-based discrimination in a historically male-dominated industry to still carrying the bulk of caretaking responsibilities?

For our 2024 Speak Up survey, Ensono surveyed 1,500 female, full-time tech employees in the U.S., U.K., and India about their work experiences over the past year and their expectations moving forward. While employers have reason to be cautiously optimistic — gender equity appears to be at an all-time high — we also uncovered significant areas for improvement.

For example, one in two women (51%) still struggle to balance caregiving responsibilities with in-person work, and one in four (26%) have felt uncomfortable or unsafe due to microaggressions or other forms of discrimination in the past year.

At a time when budgets are under greater scrutiny and retaining top talent is a priority, tech employers must provide additional support and opportunities for their female employees.

Reasons for optimism

In a year rife with change, it’s a positive sign that 93% of respondents say the experiences of women in tech have improved in the past 12 months when it comes to gender equity and inclusion.

Whether respondents work in an in-person, hybrid, or remote workplace, they have a number of positive things to say about their work experiences. Notably, 97% of in-person and hybrid respondents experienced at least one benefit of in-person work in the past year — many of which revolved around positive colleague relationships and in-person interactions.

Top benefits experienced with in-person work, hybrid and in-person respondents:

  1. Stronger relationships with colleagues: 49%
  2. Improved boundaries between work and personal life: 48%
  3. Easier participation in meetings (e.g., greater confidence in speaking up): 46%
  4. More opportunities for mentorship and/or coaching: 36%
  5. More physical activity during the workday: 30%

Remote work has also empowered female tech employees in a number of ways. Nearly all respondents (97%) who work remotely at least part of the time agree there are more opportunities for them in the tech job market due to remote work. Another 95% say remote work has improved their work/life balance and 82% say remote work has made it easier to receive promotions and advance in their careers.

2023 brought another reason for optimism: Women in tech are leading the charge when it comes to generative AI. More than a third (35%) of respondents said mostly female colleagues have led trainings and discussions around generative AI at their organizations, compared to 24% who said mostly male colleagues did so. Additionally, 73% of women have female mentors at work who provide guidance and expertise on generative AI — a percentage that jumps to 89% for women in India (compared to 58% in the U.K. and 72% in the U.S.).

Nearly a fifth of female tech employees plan to leave their companies in the next year, underscoring areas for improvement

In our 2022 Speak Up Report, which surveyed respondents during the height of the Great Resignation, 20% of respondents planned to leave their current company within the year. Today, a nearly identical percentage (19%) said the same. Younger employees are particularly eager to leave, with only 36% of Gen Z respondents planning to stay at their company for more than two years, versus more than half of respondents across other generations.

With a fifth of women in tech looking to leave their current positions in the coming year, even in an uncertain marketplace, employers need to reflect on how they can better retain female employees. 

Our survey reveals a number of challenges facing women that employers should take note of:

  • A lack of support for caregivers: One in two women (51%) struggle to balance caregiving responsibilities with in-person work. This number climbs to 62% for women in India, compared to 40% in the U.K. and 50% in the U.S. Also, 17% of all respondents said childcare support is the most important area for organizations to invest in to improve the experiences of women in tech.
  • Microaggressions and discrimination: In the 2022 Speak Up survey, 20% of all respondents experienced microaggressions in the workplace. This year, 26% of hybrid and in-person respondents said they have felt uncomfortable or unsafe due to microaggressions or other forms of discrimination with in-person work, highlighting a critical issue for employers to address.
  • Feelings of isolation: While women appreciate remote work, especially for the flexibility, 72% of remote and hybrid respondents miss the social interaction and camaraderie of in-person work. Gen Z had the highest percentage of respondents (77%) who agreed with this sentiment.
  • The gen AI gap: Women working fully remotely are being left behind when it comes to generative AI. Twenty percent of remote respondents lack experience or knowledge in generative AI, compared to just 7% of hybrid and 9% of in-person respondents. Additionally, only 50% of remote respondents have female mentors at work to provide guidance and expertise on generative AI — compared to 77% of hybrid and 73% of in-person respondents.

While remote and in-person employees experience unique challenges, there are certainly areas of overlap. Case in point: 73% of all respondents agree that they absorbed more responsibilities than their male colleagues after a reduction in workforce.

What female tech employees actually want from their employers

With workforce reductions continuing and hiring plans stalled, retention is a crucial focus for employers in the coming year. To understand what’s driving turnover among women who plan to leave their organizations in the next year, we asked these respondents why they planned to leave. More than half (51%) said they want to have a more impactful voice in decision-making, 41% want flexibility to work remotely, and 31% want better work/life balance.

In the 2022 Speak Up survey, respondents expressed different reasons for wanting to leave, namely better pay (59%) and benefits (42%). Whether they have already found better pay and benefits or their priorities have simply shifted year-over-year, women today want more flexibility and a greater voice in decision-making.

While flexibility can take many different forms, from part-time work to choice over which days to come into the office, women most wanted to see their employers invest in flexible work hours (38%) and remote work opportunities (20%). Now that we know why women are leaving, it’s important to understand what they are looking for. When asked what female tech employees would seek in a new role beyond compensation and benefits, opportunities for learning and development stood out as the most significant factor — holding steady with respondents’ top choice in 2022. The appetite for L&D was also consistent across the U.K. and India. Meanwhile, room for title/position growth ranked No. 1 for U.S. respondents as the most important factor in a new role.

It’s time to meet women where they are

The tech workplace shifted dramatically this year. The findings from 2024’s Speak Up report show that despite notable progress for women in the workplace, there’s still work to be done.

To truly meet women where they’re at, organizations must provide benefits and experiences that align with their female employees’ preferences. By championing inclusion, flexibility, and mentorship, tech employers can create workplace environments where women thrive — no matter their location, age, or role.

Explore our Speak Up 2019, 2020, and 2022 reports to discover how the tech workplace and women’s experiences have evolved (and in some cases, stayed the same).

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