The economic downturn and resultant layoffs across the tech sector have hit women harder than men, according to new research.

Analysis of National Statistics data, commissioned by Integro Accounting, found that 20.1% of UK tech employees are now women, down from 22.7% in 2021. In contrast, the sector successfully increased the percentage of female employees every year from 2018 to 2021.

The proportion of tech contractors who are female also declined from 16.8% in 2021 to 12.1% in 2022.

The data also shows that the number of female tech employees fell in absolute terms between 2021 and 2022 from 384,025 to 359,154, a decline of 6.5% in a single year. Meanwhile the number of male tech employees continued to rise between 2021 and 2022, from 1,306,833 to 1,419,590, an increase of 8.6%. 

Overall, the number of tech workers (both employees and contractors) increased by 4.1% from 1,827,851 in 2021 to 1,903,671 in 2022.

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    The fall in female representation due to layoffs mirrors the trend seen during the pandemic in which female tech workers were disproportionately placed on furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which capped pay at a maximum of 80% or £2,500 per month. 

    Between 2020 and 2021 the median gender pay gap for IT professionals in the UK widened from 10.9% to 12.9% meaning that female tech workers were being paid on average 12.9% less than their male co-workers.

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    “The UK tech sector has made great strides in boosting female representation in recent years so it is disappointing to see much of that progress undone during the recent round of tech layoffs,” said Christian Hickmott, MD of Integro Accounting.

    “Women tend to be more highly concentrated in part-time and non-technical roles, which are often the first to go during a downturn. Women are less likely to be represented in senior roles, which in turn are less likely to be targeted for redundancies. 

    “Under 15% of IT directors are women compared to nearly a third of tech workers in support roles. Given it is the IT director who normally wields the axe and the support roles most likely to be cut, the challenge is to increase female representation at senior levels.

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    “Many of the tech roles created during the pandemic were remote, which favoured women juggling career and caring responsibilities. These remote roles have been among the first to go as the economy slowed and the pushback against remote working gathered pace.”

    He adds: “The silver lining in these data is the relative resilience of the UK tech sector to the wave of job losses initiated by US tech giants in Q3 of last year. US tech companies went on a hiring binge during the pandemic and have found it much easier to shed staff due to weaker labour laws. 

    “The European tech sector, by contrast, isn’t characterised by such a hire-and-fire working culture.”

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