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The Status Quo – Female Leadership in Tech

Calendar icon 2nd October 2022

By Gavin Savage. Gavin is a Senior Consultant at Zeren.

If the biggest obstacle to women’s progress at work is not the glass ceiling, what are the main challenges women are facing in the technology sector?


Women in the UK are still widely underrepresented in IT professional and leadership roles and here at Zeren we are committed to contributing to bridging this colossal gap when working with our partners on Leadership searches.


 As someone that focuses purely on Engineering Leadership searches, D&I strategy is almost always at the top of the list in terms of topics to cover before going to market. This is something our clients love to gain insight on as we approach the market to find, for example, their next VP of Engineering or Engineering Manager. Below are some of the methods and key strategic highlights I employ when going to market to find a functional leader for our early-stage partners in the VC-PE world. By following these methods we always increase our chances of engaging a more diverse pool of profiles.


 Zeren Key Diverse Leadership Search Strategies

  • Before going to market, it is important to ensure we are aligned with our partners on D&I strategy when looking to attract a diverse high performing workforce. This centers mainly on how we would go to market, and on how the interview process should look.


  • We build a Candidate Briefing Deck (CBD) for Leadership Searches we are retained on. A powerful marketing tool that cuts through the noise in a competitive market. To see an example CBD feel free to reach out to me and I would be happy to share one.


  • The CBD is built in such a way that highlights the company’s diverse workforce and initiatives, on top of other areas e.g. the company journey, product portfolio, etc.


  • Request as much existing content our partners have on D&I within the company, as well as also asking for new content to be created. For example, interviews/spotlights with diverse/underrepresented employees currently in the business that can tell their story about navigating their career in tech, commenting firsthand on their experience with their current employer.


  • The outreach we go to market with, I ensure is put through a gender bias decoder web application to ensure appropriate and inclusive language is used at all times.


  • In terms of the interview process, in a recent VP of Engineering search, we worked closely with our partner on this search and tweaked the interview process. Interview processes particularly with early-stage businesses should be treated on a case-by-case basis. On this occasion, I requested that the candidate would meet with certain people in the business so that they could gain real first-hand insight from those coming from a diverse or unrepresented background.


  • It is important when conducting a diverse search to really demonstrate the initiatives of the company, what values they have in place and how they measure diversity within the company. When going to market we want to be confident all of the above is in place before commencing outreach.


 Current Market Challenges:

1.    31% of UK tech jobs are held by women, according to a February report released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS)


2.    Data from the Harvey Nash Tech Survey 2021 shows that gender diversity of UK technology leaders remains broadly unchanged from last year, with women representing just 10% in those roles


3.    The Broken Rung Theory, Source Elsesser.K (Oct 15, 2019) “New LeanIn Study: “The Broken Rung Keeping Women From Management “, Forbes:


“The Biggest obstacle to women’s progress at work is not the glass ceiling keeping women from reaching the top levels of leadership. Instead, the researchers find that the biggest obstacle for women occurs at one of the very first steps on the corporate ladder—the initial promotion to management. Men are far more likely than women to be promoted from their entry-level jobs to manager.


The Future is Bright in 2022

There have been positive signs and progression as more and more workforces continue to diversify, particularly in the last 5 years.


Interestingly, a report published by PWC in 2017 “Women in Tech, Time to close the gender gap” reported that 23% of people working in STEM roles (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in the UK were female and only 5% of technology leadership roles were held by females. This number today has reportedly doubled to 10% which shows growth from a UK perspective.


Further, a recent combined article published in April 2022 by Deloitte Management team, Susanne Hupfer Sayantani Mazumder and Gillian Crossan highlights that…


Roughly one in four leadership positions at large global technology firms are expected to be held by women in 2022.”


Another positive statistic shows big tech firms are doing their bit with the fastest growth being reported at the leadership level for women in tech. The large dominant forces in technology need to lead from the front. However, this doesn’t take away the much-needed work still to be done to promote and encourage women to apply to work in the technology sector. The key themes that emerge from this research are that whilst we have seen an increase in women in technology, the following calls to action are needed:


1.    More education around technology, and how it is shaping the world.


2.    Attracting people to want to work in tech by creating more awareness about what sectors are in much need of innovation, and how we as people can affect this change through the use of cutting-edge technology.


3.    Have people in executive positions with the ability to make decisions that will allow greater access to careers in technology for everyone.


Please reach out to Gavin, for any further advice on this topic:


Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.


We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment firm with teams and offices in San Francisco, Houston, New York, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.


We partner with both high growth, VC/PE backed businesses and ambitious Corporate brands placing senior leaders, building exceptional teams, or providing critical interim and consulting talent.