The Impact of COVID-19 on Women in Tech
At the beginning of March this year, TrustRadius published our second annual Women in Tech Report in celebration of International Women’s Day. The report addresses critical issues for women in the technology industry in 2020, based on a survey of over 700 tech professionals.
Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused abrupt changes around the world. We’ve decided to publish an update to our initial report with crucial data about how the pandemic has changed the lives of women in tech.
The survey was open to everyone who works in the tech industry regardless of gender identity. Nearly 600 tech professionals shared their thoughts with us, including 270 women, 315 men, 5 non-binary respondents, and 6 respondents who chose to not identify their gender. Respondents are a part of the TrustRadius global audience and network. They did not receive any incentive for participating in the survey. Here are our findings.
Laid Off Due to COVID-19
Women in tech are 1.6x as likely to be laid-off or furloughed than men
The United States has seen record unemployment due to COVID-19. The hardest-hit have been those in the travel, hospitality, and service industries, given the face-to-face nature of their businesses. Tech companies have largely been able to transition to working from home to maintain jobs. That said, 8% of women and 5% of men surveyed reported being laid-off or furloughed. These 20 women and 15 men are a small part of the more than 25 million Americans who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But the gender differences in our sample match findings by much broader studies that report higher rates of job loss among women.
According to a study by Langer Research Associates on American job loss across industries due to COVID-19, reports of job losses or layoffs are higher among women than men, 37% vs. 28% respectively.
So why is this? When companies are compiling their list of layoff candidates, they tend to do so by position or tenure. According to Harvard Business Review, with women and people of color often filling more entry-level roles and having shorter tenures, they lose their jobs at higher rates.
In industries outside of tech, people of color are losing their jobs more frequently than white people. However, this does not necessarily appear to be the case in tech. 7% of our white respondents reported being laid off or furloughed whereas 3% of people of color reported the same. Despite 38% of PoC respondents reporting their title as being an entry-level or associate/analyst position compared to only 26% of our white respondents, their role does not seem to be a contributing factor to their layoffs. These findings are based on the experiences of 181 people of color in the tech industry. Further research is needed to determine whether layoff rates for people of color continue to be lower in tech than in other industries impacted by COVID-19.
The Increased Burden of Childcare
Women in tech are nearly 1.5 times as likely as men to report feeling a greater childcare burden due to COVID-19
In terms of the rate of infection and mortality, early COVID-19 data from around the world suggests it affects women less severely than men. According to local government data from N.Y.C., men are twice as likely as women to die from COVID-19. However, women in tech may be feeling the brunt of COVID-19 social changes a bit more. Where COVID-19 hits women the hardest is in terms of how well they can manage both work and taking care of their children.
“Now that I have been laid off, I am essentially in charge of all education for my children, but I also need to continue to look for work and try to figure out how to freelance in the event that I can’t find a new role.”
—Woman respondent who was laid off due to COVID-19
Before the pandemic, women professionals often spoke of having a “second shift.” The “second shift” refers to having to take on the majority of childcare and other domestic labor when they come home from work for the day. COVID-19 has only compounded this issue now that children are home from school. The expectation that women be the primary childcare provider at home has extended into the daytime for some professionals.
Women in tech are nearly 1.5 times as likely as men to report feeling a greater childcare burden due to COVID-19. When it comes to balancing childcare with their professional lives, 35% more women than men say they are struggling.
59% of women surveyed reported that they’ve seen their familial duties and responsibilities increase since COVID-19. What may be surprising, however, is that 18% more women are handling these increased responsibilities compared to men.
This burden is especially encumbering for single parents. Given social distancing, single parents can’t necessarily turn to outside help from daycare, camps, nannies, grandparents, or other families at this time. Women are also more likely to be single parents than men. Of survey respondents who are parents or guardians, 88% have a partner. The remaining 12% are single parents or guardians. Of that 12%, 9% are women single parents compared to only 3% being men single parents.
“Women, especially those who are single parents, are in the toughest position now working with homeschooling, work-from-home, and in general taking care of their families. This is an added pressure when it comes to home schooling, the need to find resources for homeschooling to make it work, and also adjusting to work-from-home schedules.”
According to a survey by Syndio, 14% of women are considering quitting their jobs because of the family demands created by the coronavirus crisis, whereas only 11% of men reported the same. Within the same survey, 10% of men reported that their partner is considering quitting, while only 6% of women had the same answer.
Deciding to leave the workforce can have long-term ramifications for women financially. A 2018 IWPR report calculated that a woman who took just 1 year off between 2001 and 2015 would earn 39% less than women who continued to work throughout those 15 years.
Working From Home in the Tech Industry
53% of respondents have newly have transitioned to WFH
The tech industry as a whole is benefiting from work-from-home policies during the pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, work-from-home policies for the tech industry were already more of a norm as compared to other sectors. However, given the introduction of social distance policies, the tech industry has had to pivot working from home as a luxury to a necessity to combat the virus’s spread.
A majority of US companies are now working from home full-time. 53% of survey respondents who previously reported to their offices regularly have had to transition to working remotely due to COVID-19. Other respondents may have already been working from home prior to COVID-19, are unable to work from home, or are no longer working at this time.
Men in tech are slightly more likely to have had to newly transition to working from home compared to women. 54% of men surveyed reported that they’ve moved to working from home due to COVID-19 compared to 50% of women. Our 5 non-binary respondents also reported making the transition to working from home due to social distancing policies.
In our initial 2020 Women in Tech Report, we found that women were 20% more likely to consider flexible scheduling a must-have due to family obligations. Many women may have already been taking advantage of their companies’ work from home policies to help them adjust to postpartum work-life. It is important for them to be able to work from home to take care of family, make doctor visits, and take time for mental health without scrutiny from their employer. This matters more than ever now given that COVID-19 has made homeschooling mandatory and health monitoring crucial.
Working Overtime During a Global Pandemic
45% of women feel like they’re expected to work more than 40 hours per week during COVID-19.
Many companies are putting added pressure on their employees to be productive in times of economic uncertainty. 51% of men, 45% of women, and 1 out of our 5 non-binary respondents reported that they feel like they’re expected to work more than 40 hours during the pandemic. According to data from NordVPN, the average WFH employee is logging an additional three hours of work to their day since COVID-19.
Our initial Women in Tech report found that as of February 2020, women were 15% more likely than men to feel they’re expected to work more than 40 hours a week. The updated data shows that now, men are 13% more likely than women to feel pressured to work overtime. This indicates that the pandemic is putting added productivity pressures on all tech professionals, not just women. Not only are professionals working from home tasked with added childcare duties, companies trying to make sure they survive the oncoming recession are expecting employees to work harder than ever.
“It is impossible to juggle my work schedule, my husband’s work schedule, and watch my 1.5-year-old son. And I’m still expected to be just as productive as I was in the office.”
Everyone in the tech industry is trying to adapt to circumstances and challenges brought on by COVID-19, but not everyone is impacted equally given that some employees are parents, some are in at-risk communities, and some may have been infected with COVID-19. Experiences such as being laid off, or quitting one’s job to deal with childcare have long-term effects on their career and earning potential. Employers in the tech industry should consider that different populations may have different needs as they plan for personnel changes, employee assistance, and returning to the office.
“HR departments are quick to communicate a variety of pandemic related options for employees to assist in their daily lives; however this doesn’t always translate throughout the entire company. For instance, management has been more demanding during this time, while HR has been more accommodating. The approach should be unified.”
The Impact of COVID-19 on People of Color
Women are 15% more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 health disparities than men
The New York Times recently addressed health disparities in COVID-19 infection and mortality rates in the United States, citing demographic data from local governments that indicate that Black and Latino Americans are affected at disproportionately higher rates. Research suggests that there are various reasons as to why this is the case, ranging from the percentage of these communities who are essential workers to prejudice in treatment from healthcare providers.
Compared to other private sectors, there are half as many Black and Latino Americans in the tech industry. Being such a small share of the tech workforce, people of color in tech may feel left behind at this time.
We surveyed our respondents to uncover how they feel about the impact these health disparities will have on their larger network. 55% of women and 3 of our 5 non-binary respondents reported that they were “very concerned” or “moderately concerned” about the impact of COVID-19 on at-risk communities in their network, compared to 48% of men.
People of color in tech are 38% more likely to be concerned than their white colleagues
We saw an even greater gap in concern about COVID-19-related health disparities between the 181 people of color in tech we surveyed and their white peers. People of color in tech are nearly 1.5x as likely to be concerned for at-risk groups. 18% more respondents of color said they were “very concerned” or “moderately concerned” about these health disparities, compared to white respondents. A majority of respondents of color felt that their employers could be doing more to help employees support their family members who may also be at-risk and to better communicate to their workforce that their health is a priority before profit.
Similar to how women are experiencing an increased childcare burden during the pandemic, people of color may be experiencing added stress about how they can best keep their families and community safe although they themselves are working from home in the tech industry. Parents, women, and people of color may need additional support from their employers to address the life changes they’re experiencing due to COVID-19.
“I would like to see more flexibility when it comes to taking time off. There should be unlimited sick leave policies implemented instead of what exists now—if an employee is out sick or taking care of a loved one who is sick longer than 3 days than they must provide a doctor’s note.”
Inspiration From Tech Leaders During COVID-19
Women in tech are optimistic and working towards solutions to weather the pandemic
Despite the unique challenges in work and at home that COVID-19 has given rise to, the majority of women in tech feel positive about the future. They recognize the specific ways in which the pandemic is affecting them—work-life balance, mental health, and financial worries, to name a few. At the same time, women are coming up with ideas on how to best tackle disparities. Some tech professionals even see opportunities for lasting change.
Bolding added by TrustRadius for emphasis.
“I think the biggest challenge for women is that they are often the predominant or only caretaker for children. So not only are they working from home but they may be in charge of running the family 24/7 even if they have a partner.
I think this would allow families to explore new ways to manage life that will spread the burden more evenly. For women who are on reduced hours, there are tons of free online educational opportunities. It is a good time to invest time in learning a new skill or earning a certification.”
Men and women alike are witnessing women leaders in tech rising to the occasion to come up with innovative ideas on how to best support their teams. Regardless of gender, people can take inspiration from women on how to best navigate this uncharted terrain.
“I am blessed to work with some terrific leaders who happen to be women. I have watched them take this in stride despite the fact that they are now leading at work and at home with two or three school-aged children. They have adjusted by rearranging their work and that of their staffs to take advantage of those who could do more and demanding differently (not less) of those who are in similar roles.
I have also watched their staff (women and men) step up to the plate and take things off the leaders’ plates. The trust required for this to work may have always been there (or we thought that the trust existed) but this situation has proved it to be true.
Strong leaders are strong leaders and figure things out and adapt. On the flip side, this pandemic has also exposed some weaker leaders who don’t have that trust with their staff and their teams are considerably less effective.”
Many women in tech are incredibly resilient and are coming together to support each other even when they are physically apart. Although as individuals they may be experiencing different obstacles or having different concerns, communicating online is making it easier than ever to share their experiences with one another and perhaps even with colleagues with whom they may not have conversed often before the pandemic.
“We’re just working our asses off and keeping it all together. I think the most impactful thing I’ve seen is women coming together to support each other (through Facebook groups and such). Even just to vent or provide words of encouragement. Lots of moms are feeling like failures because they can’t do it all. And let’s be honest—they were *already* doing it all before. The level that’s progressed to with COVID is above any realistic expectation or possibility.
Personally, I’m pregnant and going on maternity leave in a month, so my schedule was already crazy. I have been practicing leadership by delegating and asking for help (something I often struggle with).
My husband has been taking over a lot of household duties because he’s not as busy as I am (and not growing a human being), and it sounds like a lot of other people do not have spouses who are so proactive.”
COVID-19 Resources For Women in Tech
Navigating online resources for COVID-19-related assistance can be an arduous task. Below we have compiled a list of online resources anyone in the tech industry can access in this difficult time, women and at-risk communities especially. Our list covers resources and guides designed for specific communities and spanning a variety of identities. Each was chosen for their depth and utility. We’ve organized these resources by topic and type of assistance.
We hope these resources will help our peers in the tech industry who may need some assistance and targeted support during the pandemic. For even more resources, check out Techstar’s COVID-19 Resource Guide which covers topics applicable to a wide range of roles and industries.
We would like to thank all of the participants in our survey for helping us highlight key distinctions of how different groups within the tech industry are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our research indicates that there is a need for systemic change in the industry to better support individual workers based on their unique circumstances and needs. Respondents suggest that there is great promise in this happening as more and more leaders take inspiration from those pathing the way towards a healthy post-pandemic work culture.
For questions, comments, and press inquiries related to this research, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to this research, we provide category-level and product-level intent data for software vendors who want to keep a pulse on the market. Right now we’re offering 30 days of free True Intent data to all qualified vendors. It’s one of many ways we’re working to help the tech industry overcome the challenges of COVID-19. Learn more here.