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Women Are More Likely to Be Laid Off Than Promoted in Tech — Here's How We Can Change the Status Quo In the face of a tech industry where women are more likely to be laid off than be promoted to leadership positions, it's time to hack the system and reboot the gender balance for good to turbocharge innovation and propel the industry.

By Jacqueline White Edited by Kara McIntyre

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Nearly every industry suffers from a gender gap in terms of leadership — including technology. In fact, women lag so far behind men that they hold less than 24% of all tech leadership positions across industries, according to 2023 data from WomenTech Network.

The underrepresentation of women in the tech industry was exacerbated by the tech layoffs in 2022, further hindering their progress. According to additional research by WomenTech Network, 69% of those laid off were women. While this does not imply that the decisions were made due to intentional gender stereotypes, societal norms and implicit biases shape everything from hiring to promotions. Chances are that separations fell within these same lines.

When women experience disproportionately higher layoff rates, the direct result will be a smaller pool of experienced women candidates for leadership positions. Not only is this trend a clear problem on its own, but it could also have significant long-term consequences if it persists. The industry already grapples with the glass-ceiling effect; higher layoff rates only reinforce that barrier. As a result, this could potentially discourage more women from entering and remaining in tech careers, worsening the existing underrepresentation of women in the field.

As the number of executive women in tech diminishes, there will also be fewer women role models and mentors available to guide and support younger women in their careers. Certainly not the best means of empowering women in tech, especially when you consider that 60% of managers who are men admit to being uncomfortable mentoring women, according to a study from LeanIn.Org. Additionally, job security is a significant factor to consider. Layoffs within the tech industry can create a sense of instability, potentially dissuading women from pursuing long-term careers in the field.

Related: How to Close Your Wage Gap and Open Equity at Work

How to support women in tech

Empowering women in tech can certainly help address myriad challenges, but it is still important to be proactive with your efforts. Otherwise, the underrepresentation will persist, just maybe not to the degree that the industry is currently experiencing. The question then remains: What should we do to solve these issues? The following are good places to start:

1. Institute equal opportunity policies

I began my career in the late '90s when men primarily dominated the tech industry, so I knew I would have to work twice as hard to be considered in the same category as my male colleagues. While more laws are now in place to protect employees from being treated differently or less favorably due to their sex and gender, additional work can be done internally to minimize implicit biases. Something as simple as an audit of your HR policies around hiring and promotions can shed great light on whether these decisions are truly merit-based or not. Also, you should review workforce reductions to determine if the criteria used are objective and free from discrimination.

2. Establish a formal mentorship program

Everyone can benefit from a champion in the workplace, and a mentorship program can serve as the perfect avenue to narrow the gender gap. After all, a mentor not only aids in someone's professional development but also offers insights into how to navigate difficult situations and business relationships. This person also provides an opportunity to connect with others in the industry to build a stronger network.

NetSuite certainly got the memo on this. The enterprise software company matches high-performing women with colleagues who work at least two levels above and in different departments than their mentees. The program seems to be successful based on the data, achieving a score of 3.7 out of 5.

Related: How Women Are Innovating and Shaping the Tech Landscape — and How Men Can Support Them

3. Create a women-only leadership development program

If you want more executive women in tech, invest in their development. Create a leadership development program tailored specifically for women, aimed at preparing them for leadership positions. This program can align closely with your existing leadership programs, which should include an educational track for men in the organization as well.

Necessary elements include communication, coaching, accountability, influence, negotiation and change management. The only real difference will be in the program's participants, and evidence suggests that the move will lead to higher promotion rates among women employees. It can also bolster retention and even attract more women tech talent to your company.

Related: 3 Ways Leaders Can Support Women Who Want to Enter a Career in Tech

4. Look at your organizational culture

Sometimes, the answer to how to get more women in tech comes down to organizational culture. The lack of diversity in leadership can perpetuate the status quo and even discourage the necessary changes to promote equality. Ask yourself, "Does my organizational culture foster inclusivity and diversity? Does it value the contributions of women in all aspects of operations?" If not, look for ways to improve.

Apple, for instance, has more than 25,000 of its employees participating in groups like Women@Apple, Black@Apple, Accessbility@Apple and more. There are even faith-based groups at the company. Could they do better? Probably, but the company scored 73 among diverse employees, putting it in the top 20% of U.S. companies with 10,000 or more employees.

Getting more women in tech leadership positions is not just a matter of equity or social responsibility; it is a strategic imperative that directly impacts your bottom line. The data is clear: Diverse leadership teams drive innovation, improve decision-making, attract top talent and enhance corporate reputation. When combined, these ultimately lead to greater competitiveness and success in the dynamic tech industry.

Jacqueline White

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

President of i2c, Inc.

Jacqueline White serves as the president of i2c, Inc. As a seasoned executive, she has held global senior leadership positions throughout her distinguished 25-year career.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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