Uneven gender distribution is a well-known issue in the IT field. IT Companies have been looking for new ways to attract women to the industry, and gender distribution is slowly narrowing. However, turnover in the IT sector is high and studies show that women leave the sector more often than men. We wanted to help IT companies understand the ways in which women can be retained as employees and conducted a study amongst our female employees.
What did we study?
Attracting and retaining women in the IT industry has been studied before, and the findings of previous studies indicate that an inclusive work environment is a key factor in solving the problem. We dived deeper into the topic and explored which inclusive organizational practices are generally perceived as the most important, how well those practices are implemented in our organization, and how the implementation affects retention. The research was conducted among our female workforce and the international perspective was taken into account by studying both Finnish and Polish female employees.
The study was completed as a master's thesis at the end of 2022 and was a quantitative, explanatory study. The questionnaire was sent to all female employees working in Finland and Poland and the response rate was 54,5%. Of the respondents, 85% were Finnish and 15% were Polish. 96% of the respondents identified as female and 4% as non-binary. Although the study focuses on the retention of women, employees who identify as non-binary were included in the data analysis in order to close the gender gap, organizations should focus on recruiting and retaining both women and minority groups.
Key factors to retain women
As expected from previous studies, inclusivity was highly appreciated among the women who participated in our study. In our research 16 inclusive organizational practices, such as “respecting work-life balance” and “reducing gender-biased language”, were investigated and the overall importance of these practices was very high, indicating 3,52 on a scale 1-4.
Furthermore, the results show that well implemented, inclusive organizational practices improve job satisfaction, which in turn improves job retention. According to our study, the most valued inclusive organizational practices are as follows, and in order to retain women in the field, companies should pay attention to the implementation of these practices:
- Not tolerating sexual discrimination/harassment (4/4)
- Freedom to be yourself at work (3,9/4)
- Work-life balance (3,9/4)
- Equal pay regardless of the gender identity (3,9/4)
As our female employees feel that the practices mentioned above are well implemented at Siili, it is also reflected in high job satisfaction and commitment. The overall job satisfaction of the respondents was 3,14 on a scale of 1-4, 90% of the respondents see themselves as an employee of Siili in a year.
How have the above practices been implemented in Siili?
Inclusion refers to an equal and non-discriminatory work environment where employees feel they belong, and one way to ensure inclusion is to pay attention to the implementation of inclusive organizational practices. This is done in Siili in the following ways:
- Our office is a discrimination-free zone, which means that we do not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment. In addition, we have three trained “Safer space contact persons” who can be contacted with a low threshold in all matters related to discrimination or harassment.
- We have launched the "Come as you are" culture, which emphasizes respecting and appreciating the differences of individuals.
- We have many types of club activities and organize events for employees, because we believe that balancing work and free time improves well-being and makes our employees more motivated and committed to our community. In addition, our employees can book an appointment with our in-house coach to support career development and well-being.
- We have updated our equality plan, which also includes a salary comparison between the genders. The results have been openly communicated to our employees and can be found on our intranet.
The international contribution of the study
The findings of our study reinforce the previous research, but in addition the study creates a vision that, regardless of cultural background, inclusiveness improves women's job satisfaction and job retention in the IT field. Finnish and Polish female employees participated in the study and the survey results were very similar. The culture of equality differs between these two countries, as for example, the Gender Equality Index shows that Poland’s score is below the average, while Finland's scores exceed the average. Therefore, the results can be utilized in an international context.
The international perspective is valuable, as the IT field will need more and more talent in the near future: In Finland, more than 3,000 new IT employees are needed every year, of which 81% must be highly educated. This means that since Finnish educational system cannot meet these requirements, we must recruit more actively abroad. Therefore, if we want to ensure that we have enough employees in the future, we must strive for retaining our international current and future female employees. Success depends on well implemented inclusive organizational practices.
The entire thesis can be found here.
Women In Tech Finland: The ingredients of inclusivity
Deloitte: Women in the tech industry: Gaining ground, but facing new headwinds
Writer: Miljaana Koskela
Miljaana Koskela works at Siili as a HR Specialist. Miljaana graduated with a master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration in 2/2023, and as a part of her studies, wrote her master’s thesis for Siili. Based on the thesis, Miljaana has continued to work with aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Siili. In her free time, Miljaana enjoys being outside and spending time with friends and family.