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Catalyst Study Finds Women in High Tech Industry Have Same Challenges to Advancement as in Other Fields

Women’s advancement in the high tech industry is not keeping up with the fast pace of technological change, according to a new study released today, Bit by Bit: Catalyst’s Guide to Advancing Women in High Tech Companies.
Corporate culture, recruitment and development missteps, isolation and work-life issues emerged as barriers to women’s advancement during five roundtable discussions Catalyst conducted in different regions of the U.S. These sessions were held with 75 senior executives who helped identify barriers to advancement for women and develop strategies for advancing women. Four primary barriers emerged: 

• The corporate culture at many high tech companies is exclusionary and does not support women's  advancement.
• Companies don’t strategically and objectively identify and develop talent.
• Women feel isolated because they lack role models, networks, and mentors.
• The demands of work and career are at odds with having a commitment to family and personal responsibilities.

“Not surprisingly, the barriers and demands of the high tech industry are very similar to those of traditional industries,” said Catalyst President, Ilene H. Lang. “What is surprising is that in an industry that thinks of itself as a meritocracy, women and men both perceive a lack of acceptance of women.”

The lack of women in senior positions in the high tech industry is not just an educational issue, according to the study. Women are visible and successful in this industry, yet their representation in leadership roles continues to lag. The number of women drops dramatically as professionals move up the organizational pipeline.

“The good news is that the barriers identified by the men and women who participated in our study are solvable,” said Lang. “Companies that work on these issues can and do make a difference in terms of developing and advancing women.”

Bit by Bit: Catalyst’s Guide to Advancing Women in High Tech Companies comprises four guides:

• Get a Handle on the Issues—A summary of where women are in the high tech industry, the barriers that hold them back, and how companies can take action.
• Identify and Manage Your Talent—Learn how to create effective leadership training and talent identification programs, and provide tools and resources to support career planning and development.
• Make Work/Life Effectiveness Work—Discover how to create a flexible work environment, provide and support career path flexibility, and provide support for personal responsibilities.
• Use Mentoring and Networks to Win—Find out about formal and informal opportunities that allow women to learn from mentors and network internally and externally.

In order to make real change, companies can address the barriers to women’s advancement by: instituting inclusive approaches to talent identification and development, providing opportunities for mentoring and networking, and creating effective approaches to flexibility and work-life support. Effective change in terms of recruiting, retaining and advancing women also requires a commitment from company and industry leaders to gather relevant information, educate leaders, move women into positions of authority, and pay special attention to the organizational pipeline.

The sponsors of this study are Microsoft, Dell, IBM and Intel.

Catalyst is the leading research and advisory organization working to advance women in business, with offices in New York, San Jose, and Toronto. As an independent, not-for-profit membership organization, Catalyst uses a solutions-oriented approach that has earned the confidence of business leaders around the world. Catalyst conducts research on all aspects of women’s career advancement and provides strategic and web-based consulting services on a global basis to help companies and firms advance women and build inclusive work environments. In addition, we honor exemplary business initiatives that promote women’s leadership with our annual Catalyst Award. Catalyst is consistently ranked No. 1 among U.S. nonprofits focused on women’s issues by The American Institute of Philanthropy. For additional information, please visit our Web site at or call 212-514-7600.