Press Releases

The motherhood penalty: nearly 40% of women leave tech 

Preeta Ghoshal
22.01.24

Publication: Startups Magazine  

Published: 22 January, 2024 

According to research conducted by the Tech Talent Charter, almost 40% of women who left the technology sector cited caring responsibilities as a key factor influencing their decision to exit the industry. 

The most crucial factor for working parents, who are balancing professional commitments with full-time caring responsibilities, was found to be work-life balance. This has led to the collaboration of the Tech Talent Charter and the MotherBoard Charter, focusing specifically on retaining mothers in the tech sector. 

The study revealed that women with flexible working arrangements demonstrated significantly higher retention rates compared to those without such flexibility. This finding underscores the impact of what the partnership has termed the ‘motherhood penalty’ on the tech industry’s ability to retain female talent. 

Despite its reputation for innovation, the tech sector still struggles with retaining female employees. A striking 50% of women exit the tech industry by the age of 35, which aligns with childbearing years. Additionally, a quarter of women leave the tech field for other industries. Addressing the challenges of motherhood, the partnership aims to cultivate a more inclusive and gender-balanced environment in the tech industry. 

To combat this ‘motherhood penalty’, the organisations have advocated for businesses to implement ten key steps. These include offering flexible working arrangements and supporting women’s career progression. Through these initiatives, they believe that companies can create a supportive environment for working mothers, which is crucial for retaining female talent in the tech sector. 

Alex Ford, President, North America, for Encompass Corporation, commented: “Unfortunately, technology as an industry has not been cited as a great example when it comes to promoting and encouraging diversity in recent years – with much more to be done to foster a truly inclusive environment. Maternity policies are a stand-out example of where it is imperative that we see attention and progress across the board. It’s therefore encouraging to see Tech Talent Charter and MotherBoard Charter taking serious steps to address important issues in an effort to help retain vital female tech talent. 

“A supportive maternity leave policy, allowing time, space, and guidance, enables women to grow their family and career in parallel, which is invaluable. Every mother should receive a high level of care from their organisation and the opportunity to nurture their home life while reaching their professional goals. 

“Today, every employee should be able to access assistance and guidance in finding their paths to fulfilment and, at Encompass, we support this wholeheartedly. Work-from-home and work-from-anywhere models are another family-friendly policy to ease the return to the workplace, promoting a positive work-life balance for mothers.” 

Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer of FDM Group, said: “Women plan a vital role in the future success of the technology industry and returners in particular hold invaluable skills and experiences that can help the sector grow. Unfortunately, taking time out of work for maternity leave too often counts against even the most skilled female employees, even if they have directly relatable skills that could transform the business.” 

“Organisations must emphasise supportive return to work policies and provide training to help returners bridge their transition back to the workplace. This not only boosts retention in the industry but provides outstanding role models for the younger generation setting out on their careers, acting as an inspiration to remove stereotypes. Barriers must be broken down when it comes to maternity leave and industry must prioritise supporting returners back to work to harness their fresh perspectives and wealth of skills.”