Progress for Gender Equality in the Tech Industry? The Percentage of Female Software Engineers in 2023

Mar 08, 20238 minutes read

Gender diversity seems to have become more critical to tech companies with each passing year and according to AnitaB in their annual Top Companies for Women Technologists, women accounted for 27.6% of those working in tech in 2022. A slight increase from 2021 but down .9% from pre-pandemic levels.

We still have to see how the layoffs from 2023 will impact the gender ratio, however, there are already reports that women have been more disproportionately affected.

To push the conversation on women in tech forward, we’ve compiled statistics through proprietary data, public company reporting, and government sources on one of the most in-demand roles in tech, the software engineer. Below you will find a summary of our findings on the percentage of female software engineers for leaders looking to champion gender parity and relevant data to inform their diversity hiring initiatives.

If you want all the info — like the top 10 universities for female computer science graduates, representation in major cities, and full company comparisons, you can read the full report here

percentage of female software engineers

What percentage of software engineers are female?

Women account for 23% of software engineers in 2023 in the U.S. according to’s  AI-powered talent graph of 10M+ software engineers in North America. This percentage is up 2% from last year when we first conducted the research. Let’s put that number into perspective. 

The Pew Research Institute reported in 2021 women make up 50% of those employed in STEM jobs (Healthcare represents the majority of those roles) and 51% of the total U.S. population are women. Based on these statistics, women in software engineering are generally underrepresented by 13-18%.

When looking at enterprise-sized and small company data in our talent graph we found they had a slightly better software engineer gender ratio. Large companies have 22% of their SWEs being women, while small companies have 25% — 3% above the U.S. average. 

In our last report, we found that 24% of software engineers at large companies were women. It appears larger companies likely cut some of their broad diversity initiatives with the reductions in their recruiting teams.

While small companies and startups stayed around the same since last year. This could be due to CEOs or engineering leaders doing their own recruiting and prioritizing diversity. It is also possible that many women software engineers at larger companies preferred the startup culture, and left for more senior roles or started their own companies.

female software engineer

Why are there so few female software engineers?

There’s no easy answer to why there are so few female software engineers — systemic problems tend to have multiple persistent issues that make them extremely difficult to root out. Some of the major factors include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Women are much more likely to take on simultaneous roles of “working mother” and “family caretaker.” This “second shift,” as it has come to be known after Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung’s 1989 book “The Second Shift,” is unpaid labor that often goes uncredited as well as unseen. It’s an immense additional workload and a common source of burnout among women and leads them to drop out of the workforce. 
  • Hostile work environments where women in tech roles are made out to be technically incompetent or made to feel unwelcome due to their gender. This has become further exacerbated as more women leave tech — a lack of women in mentor roles, senior leadership, and women-oriented peer groups has been a major factor in women deciding to leave the industry.
  • Lack of support and encouragement for women to pursue STEM work, beginning in early education and continuing through university and beyond. Our data shows that out of all STEM graduates, women only account for 20%.

On top of these three reasons, millions of women left the workforce in 2020 and 2021 as they cared for family members who fell ill with COVID and they put their kids through virtual learning. 

Then 2022 was seen as a year where great progress could be made across the board for diversity in tech. However, all the unfettered post-pandemic growth came crashing down as the war in Ukraine dominate headlines, inflation spiked, and venture capital dried. 

Companies like Apple, Alphabet, Meta, and Salesforce suddenly had to put a pause on lofty hiring plans and began slashing their workforce. According to Layoffs.FYI, approximately 45 percent of those who were laid off in the recent round of tech job cuts were women. Although that’s less than half, that number is alarming considering we already mentioned that women make up less than a third of all tech workers.

The reason many people are theorizing women are impacted disproportionately is that they often occupy positions that are the first to be erased during cuts.

Sales, marketing, HR, recruiting, and customer success accounted for roughly 20% of the cuts from Q4 said Roger Lee, the creator of Layoff.FYI, in an interview with Fast company.

Unfortunately, he made the point that these departments are mostly comprised of women, unlike engineering. He went on to explain that even though engineering departments are a large part of tech company expenses, they made up a small fraction of the layoffs.

So, women in tech were more likely to be forced to leave their company last year, and the opportunity to decrease the gender gap for software engineers closed as hiring paused.

Increases in the Software Engineering Gender Ratio across seniority

One glaring statistic that needed addressing in our last report was the absence of women in senior software engineering roles. 

Women represented 23% of software engineers who are individual contributors. But as soon as we analyzed our Talent Graph at the manager level, the presence of women dropped to 17% and just 15% for women with Director or VP titles. 

That was an 8% decrease from the individual contributor level to the Director or VP level.

However, when we conducted our research this year, we found that women represented 23% at the individual level, 22% at the managerial level, and 21% at the Director or VP level. That was a 5% and 6% jump for senior software engineering roles!

It is hard to say the reason behind this jump but companies will find that promoting women who are good fits to senior management positions often comes with significant benefits. 

Women in leadership roles are more likely to proactively support DEI efforts, and employees with women managers were more likely to say their manager supported them in career progression.

Most importantly, women in top roles act as role models for other women in the company which can increase retention as well as productivity.  

what is the percentage of female software engineers?

Why is gender diversity important in technology?

At the most basic level, it’s been documented that diverse teams drive better business outcomes and have more effective leadershipCreating an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere for women is not only an equitable thing to do, but it’s also beneficial for the bottom line.     

Taking a big-picture view, having visibly successful women in software engineering roles will encourage other women to pursue a similar career path. This will build a stronger pipeline of women in STEM in earlier stages of education and over time, buoy the overall parity of the gender diversity ratio.

More representation will encourage more women to stay in tech, advance to more senior positions, and help put more inclusive goals and strategies in place at the top levels of companies. 

At a moment when there is a significant shortage in tech talent, advancing gender diversity goals in the tech sector benefits the sustained health and growth of the industry as a whole.  

Hope for closing the engineering gender gap

Despite these generally concerning statistics, there are positive developments being shown at some of the top U.S. tech companies. They demonstrate the impact that diversity programs can have on the percentage of female software engineers in the workforce. 

Netflix publicized its diversity hiring goals in 2021, offering employees a tangible commitment to equity while also opening the company to external accountability and critiques. This kind of transparency, particularly from industry-leading companies, goes a long way toward setting an example for other tech organizations. 

As a result, we saw an 11% increase in their representation of women in Director/VP positions of Engineering since our report last year. In Pinterest’s 2021 diversity report, they pledged to increase women in leadership roles to 36% by 2025. We tracked them this year to have their engineering leadership made up of 31% women. Other larger-sized companies like Apple or Alphabet have also made public commitments and championed diversity hiring practices since 2021 and they both saw a 5-6% increase from the data we collected last year. 

Millennials and Gen Z are known for applying for companies that promote and act on inclusive values — and publicly outing companies that don’t. Having gender diversity hiring goals is an increasingly valuable move to attract future workers. Companies that choose not to implement any type of inclusionary programs will struggle to find talent later down the road. 

Many of these large companies are also at the forefront of developing Artificial Intelligence that will change the future of technology. Yet, women made up a disproportion of their layoffs. If we don’t have an AI workforce that is representative of the wider population then we are pre-programming it with bias. It can be either with a majority race or gender but having that inequality behind the scenes will affect the way their systems view our world and what they generate.

gender gap

We hope we were able to give you context and resources for improving your diversity hiring efforts. You can find more data on Silicon Valley software engineers here, the best diversity sourcing tools for tech talent here, tips for hiring a software developer at a startup here, and strategies for hiring diverse candidates here.  

gender diversity report download

If you’re looking to add more women to your engineering team, we can help. Schedule a call with us today!

Research, writing, and editing for this piece were contributed by Mark GregoryChristopher Nelson, and Lauren Dixon


Subscribe to our newsletter

Get weekly updates on the newest stories, case studies and tips right in your mailbox. has been acquired by Wellfound! Read the announcement here.