The Research That Inspired Action

We used our proven research techniques to uncover patterns in behavior and attitudes in women on technology teams

In 2014, as part of teaching a course at Stanford, Karen Holtzblatt started the field research with her students that led to uncovering the workplace factors that keep women engaged. Since then, across all projects, we’ve conducted ~115 field interviews with women in technology jobs uncovering their experiences on the job and what helps them thrive–or not. The women were in their late 20’s to 50’s working as managers, engineers, user experience designers and researchers, and product managers, as well as women who left their jobs. This work resulted in The @Work Experience Framework described below. The factors in the Framework were then validated through a series of surveys with over 1000 respondents. The survey work resulted in The @Work Experience Measure.

The field interviews took a 360-degree look at women’s lives. Women told stories of their current team, manager, corporate culture, promotions, family, teamwork, job choice, and speaking out. They recounted getting into the tech field and their influencers from home and school. They shared joy, frustration, values, and the love of creating. These stories revealed what matters to women for them to thrive in technology companies.

Retaining Women in Tech

Retaining Women in Tech (Book)

In this book, we introduce these findings and interventions as well as our perspective of the challenges facing women in technology work. All the research and solutions are based on deep research and user-centered ideation techniques. In Part I, we describe the @Work Experience Framework, the key factors that help women thrive (see below). Employees “thinking of leaving their job” have significantly lower scores on these factors showing their importance for retention. In Part II, we describe our tested interventions to help managers and teams improve how they work. Small changes to our practices can interrupt bias, increase individual and team success, and improve retention. 

Principles of the @Work Experience Framework

A Dynamic, Valuing Team That's Up to Something Big

Women thrive in a dynamic work-focused team and/or partnerships. They lead and follow, feel valued for their work, make suggestions, and can talk about life. The culture is results-focused, no drama, non-judgmental, and punctuated with a lively exchange of ideas among high-performing, mutually respected people. They know what to do and how to do it. Together they are making or exploring something that matters.

“I expect a culture of value and connection. Without it, I leave.”

Work That Matters and Is Right for Me

Women love working on real tangible products important to the company, the industry, or the world. Researchers and managers want similarly high impact and high profile challenges. Women don’t want to be bored and switch jobs if they stop learning and being challenged. If the work doesn’t match their skills and career goals they may feel unsuccessful, ill-used, or under challenged.

“I’m excited about my job when it’s a good match to my skills and career goals.”

The Push and Support

Women advance when they are pushed into a challenge and  supported to succeed by managers and co-workers. Many women hesitate to ask for a challenge or the next promotion. They may not feel skilled or comfortable with self-promotion. However, they rise to the occasion if pushed whether into a work challenge or a promotion. But then they need support from others to plan, strategize, ask questions, and falter.

“Throw me into the ring with support – then I’ll be successful and advance.”

Local Role Models

Successful women find role models who challenge, support, and coach. Like early influencers — parents, siblings, educators — they are both more experienced and present in daily life. When managers’ work activities and home lives look desirable, women may seek advancement. But if management means long hours, gender wars, power struggles, no family life, and not making things, promotion may be avoided.

“If I can’t see me living a manager’s life, I don’t aspire to it.”

Non-judgmental Flexibility for Family Commitments

Women with children thrive when their team and managers make it easy to balance home and work. Women worry they will be judged and excluded from challenging work because of home commitments. When managers and work mates strategize and flex to everyone’s life demands, they create a bond of connection and support. Women know they are needed, pulling their weight, and worth investing in.

“If I’m hiding or feel guilty about my family needs — I won’t stay for long.”

Unflagging Personal Power

Everyone has self-doubt but women express a lot of it. Women talk about lacking skill, being an impostor, feeling out of step, judged, unclear about how to succeed, and alone among techie geeks who judge, ignore, or treat them as dumb. But with positive feedback, minimal criticism, clear expectations for success, feeling valued and connected, and more women, women gain confidence and personal power.

“Without the plague of self-doubt, I can do great things!”

Framework Videos

Women in Technology Presentation

Remote Work Retention

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