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Of women in tech, one in four don’t feel valued at work, according to a study sponsored by ARRIS Composites of 1,000 workers in America.

With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way many of us work, remote and hybrid schedules have offered more freedom and more uncertainty for many U.S. tech workers. Competitive company culture helps drive talented people to hard-to-fill tech jobs regardless of gender, but what exactly are employees looking for?

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What do women in tech look for in their workplace?

Businesses need to see gender diversity as a business problem, not only a social problem, Gartner noted in 2022. Women in tech want to be heard rather than talked over. Gartner added that pay equity is also key, with women being paid less on average than men in tech and quitting their jobs at more than twice the rate.

Organizations that want to successfully retain women should consider advocacy and networking groups.

“We know how important it is for younger women to see that progression is possible,” said Christie Struckman, vice president analyst at Gartner. “Let them see you and feel your impact by being a vocal champion of making change happen in your organization.”

It’s important to focus not just on recruitment but on retention and “a pipeline view of the lifecycle of female employees in their workplace,” she said. Women also see bias in promotion, with 40% noting it.

“Women at mid-level positions value compensation, vacation, location, a collegial work environment and work/life balance,” Struckman told TechRepublic. “That list changes at the senior level where women value ethics and integrity, product and service quality, and innovative work. What both levels feel is missing is manager quality and respect.”

Wins for women in tech

About 26% of surveyed Americans overall are unhappy with their jobs, ARRIS found. While women and men face some different challenges in company culture, one in five men also report not feeling valued at their current workplace. Of those surveyed, 40% say they plan to look for a new job in 2023.

Women’s share in the technology industry grew 6.9% from 2019 to 2022, according to a Deloitte report; “share” in its methodology refers to the percentage of the overall workforce at large technology companies — i.e., those with an average of more than 100,000 workers.

Deloitte’s analysis and predictions found that 32.9% of the technology workforce were women in 2022, many of them in technical and leadership roles. In the technology, media and telecommunications industry in North America, 25% of board seats were held by women in the 2022 projections, Deloitte said.

Challenges for women in tech

Hiring women in high-profile technology companies can be challenging because they may lack a network of similar people to model, regardless of whether the workplace is a safe and enjoyable environment. Common “pipeline problems” include pay gaps, limited opportunities for promotion, a hostile or sexist workplace culture, or a lack of childcare. A woman who sees she is the only one on her team might feel lonely or pressured.

A 2022 study found that 44% of women working in tech in the U.S. have seen an increase in workplace sexual harassment over the last five years.

“Team members that confront those behaviors show that women are seen, heard and valued,” Struckman said.

In order to remove these barriers, organizations should have a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy that puts conscious, measurable progress markers in place for ensuring women, particularly women of color, feel accepted at work.

Companies should also change up the career pipeline by embracing apprenticeships and career-switching hires. “Returnships” can provide a training on-ramp to women returning to the workforce from a long time away raising children or exploring a different career. Mentorship programs and development opportunities can be beneficial too.

A different perspective pushes back on the idea of a pipeline challenge. Nonprofit advocacy group NPower says women — particularly women of color — already present in customer service roles have skills in customer relationship management software and digital productivity tools, which could translate to higher-paying careers in tech. Women of color make up only 5% of the workforce in tech jobs in 2022, according to NPower.

“When the tech industry reaches parity with the skills-similar talent pool, we will know that our investments in equitable recruitment, hiring, training and onboarding have been successful,” NPower wrote.

What company culture do employees want?

The rest of the survey concerned quality of life at work in general, regardless of gender. The top factor in defining an ideal working situation is a competitive salary, with 61% listing it as what they value most in a job. The ability to work from home follows it, with 39% listing it as what they value the most. From there, the survey respondents listed health insurance (38%), benefits (38%), and PTO and vacation time (36%).

The survey by ARRIS Composites notes several common desires among all people currently in the workforce, regardless of gender. A plurality of respondents (44%) want fully remote jobs, citing better flexibility and an easier time balancing their work and home life. Many employees who work from home say it’s easier to get things done and meet deadlines in their home environment.

SEE: Home video setup: What you need to look and sound professional (TechRepublic Premium)

However, management doesn’t quite trust at-home work. 64% of executives and managers believe in-office workers are higher performers than remote workers, and 76% believe in-office workers are more likely to be promoted than remote workers, Gartner found.

Of those surveyed, 73% said they believe they would perform better at an organization with a better company culture, and 67% believe their company could do more to improve its culture. Having supportive managers and flexibility with time off requests and sick days are top priorities.

With 24% of people surveyed planning to look for a new job, they’ll take their priorities into that potential search. Many people (69%) say they set stricter work-life boundaries for themselves now than they did two years ago and will take that expectation into their assessments of future jobs. Meeting employees where they are helps increase recruitment, especially among underrepresented groups.

Gartner reports that employed women are most likely to notice a negative company culture when receiving peer recognition (43%) and during performance reviews (41%).

“Leaning into these moments and making sure they are done equitably and fairly is what matters,” Struckman said.

For more on creating a positive company culture, see tips for leadership and balancing remote work with a solid culture. Plus, see the top 50 companies globally with the best company culture.

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