Studies have shown that, the higher women climb in various industries, the steeper the hill seems to get for them in their ascent.

In an effort to find the root of the problem, the UK-based Expert Market recently released a report — entitled “Why can’t women break through the tech ceiling?” — that delves into the issue as it pertains specifically to women in technology.

What they discovered was that the problem starts earlier on than one might think.

“Female participation in STEM [school] subjects is significantly lower than males in Western developed nations,” they concluded. “This leads to lower female participation in the STEM workforce in these nations and produced a much smaller pool from which female leaders can emerge.”

They stress that the issue is not attributed to a lack of ability, but rather, “a gender gap in STEM [that] emerges at least as early as during secondary education” — though researchers also point out that “the complete set of data on board composition proves that [a] glass ceiling does exist.”

Those involved in compiling information for the study focused specifically on companies that were traded in major stock markets in the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Sweden when examining the limitations for women looking to become executives.

“Of 21 companies studied with no women on the board of directors, 19 (or 90 percent) were STEM companies,” researchers learned through their analysis.

Related: Mandated Equality?

Lucile Michaut, a senior digital marketing executive at Expert Market, spoke to us about the problem.

“Only 3 percent of tech start-ups in Silicon Valley are formed by women, which means there is very much an old boys network when it comes to getting ahead within a company,” she said. “This certainly applies when it comes to making the board. Tech companies are missing out as a diverse board makes the best decisions for the company and its employees.”

The study’s findings corroborate Michaut’s assertions regarding the environment of Silicon Valley. They also indicate that the same issue exists in other countries, and found that the problem of representation for women in the boardroom was especially prevalent in Sweden.

Additionally, researchers learned that “[w]hen all companies are ranked by female representation at board level, just two of the top 10 companies are STEM companies.”

Top 10 companies by female representation on board (FTSE 100, S&P 100, DAX+TecDAX, OMXS30, CAC40) (Credit: Expert Market)

The company’s director of publishing, Amy Catlow, said that incorporating more women on the executive boards of tech companies would be “better for everyone.”

“As the 2007 McKinsey report shows, ‘a critical mass’ of 30 percent or more women at board level produces the best financial results,” she noted. “Of course, this is a correlation rather than causation, but a progressive workplace is most likely to yield the best ideas and forward thinking.”

Related: The Good Fight for Women in STEM
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