Individual Differences and ImpactResearch

Why do half of women in tech drop out by age 35?

In a collaborative report involving Code First Girls and Tech Talent Charter (TCC – a government-supported group of over 775 leading UK businesses and organisations) aimed to gain insights into the UK’s diversity talent shortage – and provide recommendations to address the diversity crisis.

It is revealed that half of the women in tech drop out by the age of 35, adding to concerns about the growing digital skills and gender gap.

Additionally, of the 149 million new jobs Microsoft predicts will be created by 2025 in software, data, AI and machine learning only 20% of the 5.8m newly skilled and qualified graduates will be women.

A few barriers for women in tech (and indeed in any industry) is: maternity leave, and work-family balance.

The top recommendations to encourage women to remain in tech include: flexible working, enhanced parental leave policies, and other female-specific family and healthcare policies and benefits.

Flexible working policies have been shown to have a positive impact on attracting and retaining talent. 

Job ads that include job flexibility in the offering have increased applicant volume by 30% and increased the proportion of female applicants.

88% of the 210,000 UK tech employees from TTC’s data reported having access to flexible work options including: part-time working (83%), job sharing (76%), condensed hours (65%) and remote working 47%). Other options available are a 4-day working week during the summer and uncapped holiday.

Although the availability of the report seems to focus on flexible work arrangements that are already available and female-related healthcare policies, the main solutions that seems to be suggested centre around making the tech workplace less of a ‘boys-club’ and slightly more inclusive to women’s family and healthcare needs. 

What the report doesn’t seem to address is the fact that flexible working policies are already available in almost 90% of tech companies and women are still leaving before 35. 

  • Could it be that there are much deeper underlying causes of women exiting the workplace by age 35 and not returning? 
  • Could workplace norms, narratives and job demands expectations also play a role?
  • Could the flexible workplace practices indeed be contributing to the inability to create work-home boundaries, which lead to higher stress, anxiety and feelings of burnout by the mid-30s, and making it less feasible for a healthy work-family life balance? 
  • Could the job demands that come from an industry that is already suffering from a skills shortage and an inherent need to grow and deliver at pace be significantly contributing to a stressful work environment that works for those in their 20s, but not always so well for those in their 30s?