The mid level is perhaps the most critical juncture for women on the technical career ladder because it is where a complex set of gender barriers converge.
Leading high-tech companies require diversity to maintain globally competitive technical workforces. Research shows that workforce diversity can boost a company’s bottom line by providing creative variety of thinking styles and, thus, new business solutions. A recent industry report by Gartner estimates that by the year 2012, teams with greater gender diversity (when compared to all-male teams) will be twice as likely to exceed performance expectations. Gender diversity in the high-tech workforce fuels problem solving and innovation – the driving force of technology.
But when it comes to providing opportunities for technical women, high-tech firms lag sharply behind those in other sectors. As this report shows, men are significantly more likely than women to hold high level management or executive positions. Women at the mid level of their high-tech careers are extremely valuable to companies, but this seems to be the very point at which they face the greatest barriers to advancement at a cost to both the companies and the individual women.
In order to learn why the mid level is a “glass ceiling” for women on the technical ladder, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University have undertaken a groundbreaking study of female scientists and engineers at seven mid to large, publicly traded Silicon Valley high-tech firms. Drawing from a large-scale survey and in-depth interviews conducted in 2007 and 2008, this report proposes data-driven, systematic solutions for the retention and advancement of technical women.