Male workers say sexism in the tech industry is “rare” - women would disagree

Stock image denoting sexism in the tech industry with female working holding her head and two colleagues in background.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's no real sexism in the tech industry – according to men, that is.

A study from recruitment firm Nigel Frank International polled more than 1,300 male tech professionals working across Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Azure, and Microsoft Business Applications.

The firm found four-in-five men believed men and women were treated equally in their workplace, with only 6% disagreeing.

James Lloyd-Townshend, chairman and CEO at Nigel Frank International, said the prevailing belief among male workers that sexism in the tech industry is a rare occurrence contradicts years’ worth of research and shows there’s still much to be done to tackle the issue.

"Our survey encompassed more than a thousand men currently working as tech professionals and I have to say, the results are startling," he said.

"I’d love to know what percentage of the men who feel there’s no gender inequality in their organization have reached that conclusion through actual conversations with the women in their workplace."

Research from the Fawcett Society in November 2023 found that nearly a quarter of women in tech have reported sexism in the workplace. The study shed light on a toxic ‘tech bro’ culture across the industry that led women to feel marginalized and targeted with offensive ‘banter’.

Notably, the study reported that a concerning portion of male employees believe women “aren’t suited” to working in the sector.

Part of the problem, according to research by McKinsey, is that while female representation in the C-suite is the highest it's ever been, progress in the middle of the pipeline is lagging behind.

Director-level women are leaving at a higher rate than in the past, and at a notably higher rate than men at the same level.

"As a result of these two dynamics, there are fewer women in line for top positions," the consultancy said.

Similar research on the topic of workplace representation by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, found that, at current rates of change, it could take nearly 300 years for women to account for an equal share of the tech sector workforce.

Between 2018 and 2021, the report found, the proportion of female tech workers in the UK increased from 16% to just 20% - meaning that "a massive pool of talent and creativity is being overlooked."

Meanwhile, in terms of pay, Skillsoft's annual Women in Tech report found the gender pay gap in the technology sector is 16% higher than the national average, with 42% of women reporting unequal pay and 39% citing a lack of equity in opportunities.

Male allyship is key to tackling sexism in the tech industry

Nigel Frank International has some suggestions as to how men could do more to foster equality in the workplace. 

Men in tech should be working to create environments in which women are empowered to be honest about their workplace experiences, and where their suggestions will be taken seriously.

They should also educate themselves on the issues, and speak up in favor of women, especially when it comes to leadership roles such as heading a project or gaining a promotion.

"It’s common for those who don’t experience inequality to ignore or deny its prevalence," Lloyd-Townshend said. "What we need is more engagement, observation, listening – and ultimately allyship, from men in tech."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.