Are Return To The Office Demands Killing The Growth Of Women In Tech?

woman looking at lines of code wondering about the growth of women in tech

Despite women making up half of the population, only 26% of the UK’s tech workforce are women.

Whilst the growth of women in tech has been slowly rising over the previous decades, and improved considerably over the past few years (up from 19% in 2019), we are still a far cry from equality in the tech industry.

It is well understood that companies who offer remote and hybrid working arrangements are more likely to hire and retain women in tech talent. Latest statistics show that 28% of tech teams that have no remote / hybrid working restrictions have made clear strides forward in hiring women into their tech roles. However, this drops for teams with a 5 day in office mandate to 22%.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses were encouraged to, and often did, embrace remote working arrangements for their employees. However, since then we have seen some back pedalling. A survey released in January this year found that 37% of employers have made office days mandatory. With flexibility high on desired benefits for UK employees, how could this affect the growth of women in tech?

The current state of women in tech in statistics

Before we discuss remote working vs returning to the office, it is important to explore the current levels of women in tech as things stand. Statistics have shown that whilst the percentage of women in tech has increased by 7% since 2019, the current state of women in tech is still quite bleak.

  • 15% of engineering graduates are women
  • 19% of computer studies graduates are women
  • The tech gender pay gap is not expected to close until 2120
  • 25% of women in tech leave the sector at some point in their careers
  • 50% of women in tech roles leave the industry by the age of 35, often citing non-inclusive culture as the main reason
  • 36% of women surveyed last year were planning on leaving tech sector completely

Looking at these statistics, there is a clear gender gap in tech. They are a rather dismal portrait of where the industry currently stands. There needs to be more done to encourage the growth of women in tech and stem the exodus of female tech professionals, but are the actions of the industry reflecting this?

Are return to the office measures killing the growth of women in tech?

Why do companies want their workforces to return to the office?

98% of companies surveyed say they have encouraged employees to return to the office in some capacity, with 37% of organisations making office days on at least a hybrid basis mandatory. Statistics show that for the tech sector, hybrid working is high with 75% of tech workers balancing office and remote working days.

The reasons behind companies encouraging employees back into the office often include:

  • Desire for greater in-person collaboration
  • Aim to improve in-person culture in the office with increased opportunities for team bonding
  • Ease of monitoring and checking in with employees in the office
  • Support for employees who struggle with wellbeing and loneliness when working remotely

This list isn’t exhaustive. Often there are individual reasons why a company decides to promote or mandate in office working, whether hybrid or fully onsite. Sometimes these are valid and sometimes they are based on the personal preferences and beliefs of senior managers. Whatever the case, strict mandates for full time return to the office isn’t often well received.

Why do employees not want to return to the office?

There is evidence that a strict return to the office 5 days a week mandate creates an atmosphere where top professionals, both men and women, want to leave the workplace. A study by Gartner found that with strict (return to the office) demands, the intent to stay in the business drops 16% for top performers and by 10% for female employees specifically.

During the pandemic, many professionals found that they enjoyed or became used to working from home and now do not want to give it up, or do not see the benefits of returning to the office full time.

Why does this affect the growth of women in tech?

When women in tech, as well as other sectors, are surveyed about the top benefits are working from home, flexibility tends to be the top reason.

Whilst nearly all professionals show a preference towards hybrid or remote working arrangements, women often have more caring responsibilities, whether for parents, family members or children. Remote working can support the flexibility many individuals need in order to balance their work and personal lives.

In fact, according to a recent survey, caring commitments influence the working decisions of around 40% of women in tech, with 11% leaving the workplace due to it. The same survey found that women in tech in roles with flexible working tended to have higher levels of retention than those without.

What can companies offer to improve the growth of women in tech beyond remote working?

Is remote working the only option for businesses wanting to encourage more women into tech? Definitely not. There are other actions and measures organisations can introduce to help attract and retain great women in tech talent.

Flexible hours – this could be an antidote to improving the growth of women in tech beyond remote working opportunities, as moveable hours could bring some of the flexibility that many women want.

Family policies – childcare responsibilities are a large consideration for many working parents, particularly working mothers. Generous leave policies or subsidised childcare could significantly help. Around 40% of women in tech with caring responsibilities, found that this influenced their decision to leave their tech job.

Career progression 57% of women reported having a female role model within leadership as key to their career success and progress. Making an effort to employ and attract female tech professionals throughout middle and upper management can help to encourage more women to join and feel confident in their ability to rise through the ranks.

Inclusive working environment – establishing a judgement-free environment in which both men and women feel comfortable being themselves is crucial in attracting, nurturing and retaining women in tech talent.

Address the gender pay gap – the tech gender gap in pay stands at 16%, higher than the national average of 11.6%. Promoting commitment to pay parity in a company will help to attract and retain the women in tech workforce.


If you would like help and assistance on strategies to access diverse pools of talent in your business, please get in touch with our team here.

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