As a beacon for good practice it's heartening to see nearly 400 companies appearing on the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) - and not surprisingly a large number of business in the Technology & Professional Services arena. 

But before they pat themselves on the back, it's important that businesses focus on the perception gap between leaders in the tech industry and their female-identifying employees. 

Recent research from Accenture & Girls Who Code highlights that whilst 77% of leaders think their workplace empowers women, only 54% of these women agree. And while 45% of leaders claim it’s easy for women to thrive in tech-related jobs, only 21% of women overall (and 8% of women of colour) feel the same way.

According to the report, the disparity is all about culture and opportunity: uncomfortable classroom settings in college, or even high school, combined with less-than-ideal company work environments, lead over 50% of young women in technology roles to drop out of the industry by the age of 35.

 Senior human resources leaders are largely responsible for workplace culture. They’re changemakers who determine who is hired, how they work, and what they work on. But according to the survey results, they largely over-estimate how safe and welcoming their workplaces are while under-estimating how difficult it is for women to build their careers in technology.

This perception gap is key because leadership undervalues inclusion in the workplace and remains focused on hiring women when there’s an existing attrition problem. The report indicates that leaders tend to centre their efforts on hiring rather than retaining women. An emphasis on hiring makes it less likely for women to advance in their career within a company; the company then misses out on reduced bias, a more equitable workplace, and an overall improved culture.

The report identifies five actionable cultural practices that can curb this trend: strengthening parental leave policies, selecting diverse leaders for senior teams, developing women-specific mentorship programs, rewarding employees for creativity, and scheduling networking events that are open to all team members. 

It expects that these changes could help ensure up to 3 million early-in-career women will work in technology roles by 2030. 

Something everyone can agree would be a great step forward.