Knowledge Center

Bit by Bit: A Catalyst Guide to Advancing Women in High Tech Companies

In 2001, Catalyst began to build our knowledge of the high tech industry with our study, Leadership Careers in High Tech: Wired for Success, released the same year we opened our Western Region office in San Jose. The following year, Catalyst embarked on the current study to delve deeper into the issues facing women in the high tech industry.

Impetus: This guide provides detailed examples, practices, advice, and recommendations useful in addressing the major barriers faced by women in this industry. They provide solutions for supervisors and line managers, human resources managers, individual women, and senior leaders.


  • Five half-day roundtables were conducted with about 15 participants each. Seventy-three women and men leaders from 27 technology companies participated in the meetings.
  • A focus group was conducted with nine women from one company who were identified as future leaders.
  • Interviews were conducted with representatives from participating companies, as well as other companies in the field, on their programs and practices to recruit, retain, and advance women.

Findings: We asked participants to identify the most important barriers to women’s advancement in high tech. Their responses are categorized into four main barriers: the corporate culture at many high tech companies is exclusionary and does not support women’s advancement; the demands of work and careers are at odds with having a commitment to family and personal responsibilities; women feel isolated because they lack role models, networks, and mentors; and companies do not strategically and objectively identify and develop talent.

Sponsors: Microsoft, Dell, IBM Corporation, Intel