Monday, October 5, 2009

GHC09: The fight or flight moment: understanding why we leave or stay in industry

This is the last presentation I attended at Grace Hopper 09. Maybe not the best way to end a series of inspirational talks, but it is definitely thought provoking.

The presenter summarized and interpreted the results of 3 prestigious studies about why women in technology has a staggering 52% attrition rate. She also has some recommendations for what companies can do to help combat the attrition.

First, the presenter showed a few reasons why retention is an important issue to address:
- SET growth is 5x other fields
- demand outstripping supply, IT supply shrinking
- fewer visas since 2001
- emerging economies - 75% Chinese students go home vs. 20% in prior years
- baby boom retirements
- highly trained, expensive to replace

Of those leaving (or considering leaving), here are some reasons they cited:
- extreme job pressure - hours, stress, health
- culture not woman-friendly
- compensation
- feel career is stalled
- lack career paths, sponsors, mentors, role models
- feel isolated

Lastly, here are some things she recommended to help with retention:
- 10% female management: culture change from the top, less isolation, more role models
- flexible workday and career track timing
- career paths, mentors, and sponsors
- opportunities for altruism
- on-ramps for women who left for a few years to come back

One interesting thing to note is that when comparing boomers to GenX's to GenY's, we are seeing a decline in whether they feel they have barriers in their career. Now whether that's because the younger folks haven't gotten to a point where they feel they can't advance, or if the environment is actually shifting to promote more young women to stay in SET industry, I don't know. It is encouraging finding nonetheless.

That's the end of my Grace Hopper adventure! You can read about all the sessions I attended and blogged about here.


  1. You might be interested in a new book about Grace Hopper published by MIT Press. More information about "Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age" can be found at