The Future of the Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers

ISACA conducted a study of women currently working in technology fields around the globe. Several issues emerged in the study as significant concerns.
The Future of the Tech Workforce: Breaking Gender Barriers

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In 2017, women in tech are still facing significant barriers in the workplace—from a shortage of women role models, to a gender-based pay gap, to persistent gender bias that nearly 90% of them say they have experienced. Through its Connecting Women Leaders in Technology program, ISACA (previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association) conducted a global survey of women in tech to uncover why women remain underrepresented in the field. The results show that much work remains to be done before we can build the stronger tech workforce of the future—a workforce in which women are equally represented, fairly compensated, and confident that their employers are committed to their success.


  • Lack of mentors (48 percent)
  • Lack of female role models in the field (42 percent)
  • Gender bias in the workplace (39 percent)
  • Unequal growth opportunities compared to men (36 percent)
  • Unequal pay for the same skills (35 percent)


Women make up 40 percent of the world’s workforce, according to the World Bank. In some countries, that number rises to 59 percent. Yet, the tech field is notoriously male-dominated at all levels—considerably worse than in non-tech industries—as reported by Payscale.

In the tech sector in particular, men outnumber women at every level— but the starkest difference is at the top. Only 21 percent of executives in tech are women—this despite evidence that more women lead to greater innovation and enhanced profitability. In a 2016 Peterson Institute for International Economics working paper, for example, researchers found that having women in leadership positions aligned with a 15 percent increase in profitability, on average.

Moreso, the percentage of women in several of these disciplines is declining, not rising.


Nearly 9 in 10 respondent are somewhat or very concerned about the number of women in the technology sector (87 percent).


Only 8 percent say they have never experienced gender bias in the workplace.


When coupled with the results of ISACA’s study, they are striking. The two biggest barriers women say they face in the technology workplace are lack of mentors (48 percent) and lack of female role models (42 percent).

It’s clear that women hunger to learn and benefit from the presence of other women in technology. But at the top of the list of barriers for women in the ISACA survey are “limited networking opportunities” and “lack of a strong professional network.”

Before any substantial progress can take place, women must have a more visible presence within tech. They must be hired, and they must be advanced as their education, expertise and skills merit.

When asked why it might be that women are so underrepresented in technology fields, respondents’ No. 1 answer is that information technology role models and leaders are predominantly male. Not surprisingly, the No. 2 answer follows logically: women perceive information technology as a male-dominated field.


  • Tech leaders/role models are largely males (33 percent)
  • IT is perceived as a male-dominated field (22 percent)
  • There is a lack of work/life balance (14 percent)
  • Educational institutions do not encourage girls to pursue tech careers (14 percent)

Download the complete report. 

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