30 October 2023 

New research out today from Fawcett, in partnership with Virgin Media O2, reveals a widespread toxic 'tech bro' culture is pushing women out of the tech sector.

Read System Update: Addressing the Gender Gap in Tech

System Update: Addressing the Gender Gap in Tech is the culmination of eight months of extensive research, interviews and polling. The report explores the views and experience of women and men who work in tech roles, those who have recently left, and women who have qualifications but are not currently working in the sector.

Key findings include:

  • 1 in 5 men working in tech roles believe that women are naturally less suited to working in the sector.
  • 43% of women in the tech sector think about leaving their role at least once a week. 
  • More than a quarter of women with STEM qualifications outside of the sector believe there is more sexist behaviour in tech than other types of work.
  • 72% of women in tech roles have experienced at least one form of sexism at work. This includes being paid less than male colleagues and sexist 'banter' (22%) and questioning of their skills and abilities (20%).
  • Black and minoritised women have experienced additional levels of exclusion, with almost three in four having experienced racism at work.
  • 1 in 3 Black women have been assumed by colleagues to not hold a technical role

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society said:

This report rings alarm bells for a sector that prides itself on being future-facing. It's unacceptable that so many women are being locked out of tech because damaging and plain wrong sexist ideas are thriving in a predominantly male workforce. It's really no surprise that 4 in 10 women consider leaving their role when toxic 'tech bro' cultures are so widespread, and women are diminished by male colleagues. And, yet again, our research shows things are even worse for Black and minoritised women who experience the compounded effects of sexism and racism. 

It makes no sense that in the midst of a skills shortage so many capable and talented women are either locked out of the sector or choosing to leave. All of this means tech firms are missing out on a wealth of talent and both women and our economy are being held back. We need urgent action to bring in a system update and create workplaces that truly respect and accommodate women in all our diversity.

Nisha Marwaha, Director of People Relations and DE&I at Virgin Media O2 said:

The findings in this report are clear: the 'tech bro' culture is causing long-term damage and creating an environment where women wrongly don't feel they belong. 

With a fifth of men harbouring an ill-conceived belief that women aren't up to the job, we must do better as businesses at creating an inclusive and diverse environment that shatters these stereotypes. Otherwise, at a time when the tech sector is hit with skill shortages, we'll miss out on a wealth of top talent. 

At Virgin Media O2, we know that diversity if the key to a brighter, more innovative, and prosperous future for us all. That's why we've proudly partnered with the Fawcett Society to champion the cause of gender diversity in tech and are committed to reviewing every recommendation in detail to accelerate change.

Our calls for change

To make the tech industry a more inclusive place for women, we are calling on businesses, government and schools to work together to achieve change by:

  • Reducing bias at application: Ensuring job advertisements promote all reasonable flexible work options by default; banning salary history questions; using gender-neutral language; and setting targets to improve the representation of women and underrepresented groups.
  • Countering stereotypes and broadening access to tech: Expanding and supporting programmes teaching tech skills to people of all ages; offering returner programmes; countering gender stereotypes in school curricula; and providing greater funding for tech expertise in education.
  • Normalising and expanding flexible and part-time work and parental leave:  Establishing clear, fair and transparent processes for flexible work requests; reforming parental leave systems to support both parents; and encouraging men to take paternity leave.
  • Promoting an inclusive social culture: Developing anti-racism and misogyny action plans; creating transparent reporting mechanisms for grievances and harassment, including monitoring which complaints are upheld; conducting exit interviews; and providing support for employees affected by workplace discrimination.
  • Providing equitable training, pay and progression: Ensuring pay transparency and promotion criteria clarity; documenting salary grades and conducting pay and bonuses audits to address disparities; and calling on Government to mandate publishing both gender and ethnicity pay gap data.

Get involved

Help us make the tech sector a more inclusive place for women.