The Challenges Women in SaaS Face and the Increasing Need to Attract Female Talent to the Industry

6 minutes min read

By Lily Baker

Consultant

There is a distinct lack of female talent within the technology space, more specifically within SaaS. Only 16% of Sales Managers working within technology (SaaS) are female, significantly lower than the industry average of 26%. Across the full tech workforce, only 19% are made up of females. While steps have been made to improve gender diversity within SaaS in recent years, it’s very apparent that there is still a long way to go to achieve a more balanced and diverse workforce within technology. There are initiatives across all industries within STEM to encourage the number of females across all levels, including at a leadership level, read more about Tackling Gender Diversity in STEM: How Far We’ve Come and How Far to Go?

There’s no doubt that the SaaS industry is dominated by males, not only is there a challenge in attracting female talent within SaaS and technology, but there are also challenges retaining female talent. Why is this the case and what challenges do women encounter when working and developing a career in SaaS?

With poor representation of women within SaaS, we highlight some of the significant challenges women face in the technology industry.

Challenges women face in SaaS

Gender Bias

Despite progress made over the years, there is significant bias still prevalent within SaaS and technology. Issues with the gender pay gap and lack of equal opportunities between men and women with career progression and presence on senior level boards and executive teams are common. Like many industries, increased headcount of women within an organisation tends to be in support and operational roles, with a distinct lack of women in sales and leadership functions.

Imposter Syndrome

Anyone can experience imposter syndrome, but it’s something many women experience in the SaaS industry. Due to internal beliefs, many women feel they don’t have the skills or experience to be in certain positions and perceive themselves as less competent than their peers. This is also the case when applying for new positions, women will only apply for a role if they believe they match 100% of the criteria outlined in an advertisement. However, men will apply for a role if they feel they match 60% of the criteria. This demonstrates the difference between men and women on pushing forward with careers and women putting themselves forward for opportunities in comparison to men.

Lack of mentors and role models

There’s no surprise, the significant lack of women working in SaaS impacts the lack of representation at a leadership level. With this, women have very few role models or mentors to learn from and aspire towards. This is an area CSG Talent have focused on and researched to highlight the importance of roles models for women; From Wolfe-Herd to Wojcicki: Female Role Models to be Inspired by in 2022. It’s positive to see more and more successful women pave the way in SaaS, with The Software Report highlighting the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS. These women have been recognised for their significant contributions and innovation within SaaS solutions. Something, ten years prior, we might not have seen. It’s also important to recognise mentors and role models within a business, not just prominent figures at well-known global organisations.

Brett James a Sales Leader at Leadoo Marketing Technologies agrees that one of the most significant challenges for women is the lack of role models; “One of the biggest challenges facing women in tech is the shortage of female role models, I think there is a big opportunity for businesses to build out women-centric mentoring programmes to help encourage more women to join and stay in the tech space.”

Limited flexibility

Women have faced barriers developing their career in SaaS due to limited flexibility on working hours, limitations with remote working and issues around childcare, family commitments and responsibilities. Women have had to make sacrifices with their career at various stages, whether that be reduced hours, extended leave or longer breaks from work. This has historically impacted a woman’s ability to progress within an organisation or even limit the opportunity to return to the SaaS industry after extended time away.

How can businesses successfully attract female talent in SaaS?

Organisations within SaaS need to attract and retain female talent to allow their business to grow. Leaders need to take accountability for female presence in SaaS and ensure positive action is taken to encourage women to develop within the industry. At CSG Talent, we support our clients to create a more balanced and diverse team of employees and leaders. We gain in-depth insights across our specialist markets to establish the approaches that are successful in attracting female talent. Here are CSG Talent’s top recommendations to attract female talent in SaaS.

Offer benefits that appeal to all

The workplace has dramatically shifted and while many benefits centred around the office and work environment used to appeal to employees, employee motivations have changed. Offering benefits that appeal to women at various stages of life that truly add value to overall wellbeing and life events can be a huge motivator when selecting a new employer. Consider your maternity/paternity policies, do you offer financial support with life events such as relocating, bereavement, fertility and healthcare? Carrying out research into attractive benefits and hearing from existing employees is a useful exercise to enhance overall benefits offering.

Gender Neutral language and job advertisements

Considering the style in which job descriptions and job adverts are communicated can have a significant impact on the number of females interested in an opportunity and viewing themselves as suitable. Consider the tone of voice, and the style of language used to appeal to women, as well as men. Place less emphasis on role requirements and exhaustive list of essential experience and sell the role, the opportunity and what you can offer a potential employee.

Offer a flexible work environment that appeals to women and men

The workplace has shifted dramatically in the last couple of years, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. More businesses offer remote or hybrid working solutions which has a positive impact on working parents, in particular women. Businesses need to accommodate a work environment and flexibility that works for everyone, irrespective of where an employee is based, it’s about the work output and the results they achieve. Giving women this flexibility will not only encourage them to stay and develop within SaaS, but it will also support successful talent attraction strategies. Promoting a healthy work life balance without pressure or expectations will allow women (and men) the opportunity to shape a work life balance that works for them individually.

Males championing females

Having men who support and champion women in SaaS is key to supporting women develop through to leadership roles and encourage women to stay within the industry. Men can champion women in SaaS by celebrating and highlighting the success of women making steps forward and significant contributions where they add value in their role, the business, or the industry. Recognising this success and giving women credit they deserve will reach a larger pool of people, showcasing role models and inspirational women that others can aspire towards.

Diverse interview process

Ensuring a potential employee experiences a diverse interview and hiring process is also important. Consider who is involved in the process at various stages. Do you have a diverse interview panel? Who makes initial approaches to potential employees? Having equal representation will allow women to feel a sense of belonging and to feel aligned to the company. Having women present throughout the hiring process will encourage other women to feel like they are represented and can see themselves working or leading at such an organisation.

Internal mentoring and development programmes

What provisions to do you have in place to support the development of women at all stages of their career? Offering development opportunities to allow women at all stages of their career to progress is key to increasing more women at a leadership level in SaaS. Providing access to latest technology events and training can also help to ensure they constantly stay up to date and aware of developments in the market.

The benefits of a diverse team and the value women can add to business growth and success

Many business leaders underestimate the value a diverse leadership team can bring to an organisation. Having increased presence of women at a leadership level in SaaS will result in improved communications and engagement, successful collaboration across a business, increased ideas and more diverse problem solving and establishing solutions. All this links directly to increased performance, business activity and overall business results and growth. Achieving greater gender diversity in the workplace and having increased presence of females on leadership teams directly contributes to an increase of business ROI. (McKinsey & Company)

Women demonstrate strong empathy, specifically within leadership and strategic roles. Empathy is a trait which helps increase internal engagement with better understanding of people and styles of communication. Having strong empathy skills can not only support your understanding of an effective employee experience, but that of customers and products too. An essential skill required to be strategic within SaaS.

In recent years, there has been an increase of women working within SaaS Marketing and Product Development, according to the Economic Times. “When it comes to SaaS Product Development and Marketing, a common change we noticed in recent times is that larger groups of women team members are proactively getting into SaaS marketing, having understood its need and relevance in today’s IT industry.”

This increased presence of women in commercial roles has impacted business growth and overall growth and progression of the SaaS market.

Moving forward to increase presence of women in SaaS

At CSG Talent we work with our clients proactively across each of our specialist industries to support gender diversity and champion female talent, especially in industries with limited presence of women in leadership and managerial roles. We, like many, are keen to reduce the gender gap and ensure women can thrive in what have been historically male dominated industries.

While there is still a huge amount of work to be done to increase the numbers of women working within SaaS, and having presence at a leadership and board level, we have come a long way. Many of our clients have goals and initiatives in place to both attract and retain female talent and we will support then in achieving these objectives with both our executive search and talent strategy expertise.

If you’re keen to explore this topic in more detail, or to discuss your current hiring strategy and diversity goals, please get in touch.