Fewer women in tech due to, among other things, lack of workwear

The number of women pursuing technical education has been increasing for years. However, the number of women actually working in the tech sector remains almost unchanged. Recent research indicates that this is not due to the work itself, but rather the conditions in which women work. Among other factors, the lack of suitable workwear for women appears to be one of the culprits.

Fewer women in tech due to, among other things, lack of workwear

On April 7, 2022, the VHTO Expertise Center on Gender Diversity in STEM and IT published a whitepaper on the shortage of Dutch women in the tech industry. And that shortage appears to be a significant problem. In the coming years, the industry will need about 13,000 additional workers. Currently, only 14% of all employees are women. So, there’s still a lot of ground to cover.


Why women leave the tech industry

The organization investigated the reasons why women leave the tech industry, and four main points emerged:

  1. Gender bias in the workplace. The sector is dominated by men, and many women feel they are treated differently as a result. Examples include longer probationary periods, higher demands placed on female employees by employers, lower pay compared to male counterparts, and fewer opportunities to speak during meetings.
  2. Low confidence in their abilities. After reading point 1, it’s no surprise that women in the tech sector frequently doubt themselves. They have few female colleagues to encourage them, leading to a negative self-image.
  3. Work-life balance. Compared to other industries, the tech sector is not very flexible when it comes to work hours. Part-time work is rare, and working from home is also uncommon. Since many women take on the majority of household tasks, the tech industry isn’t an attractive option for them once they have children.
  4. Feeling out of place in a male-dominated company culture. Women are also more likely to leave if they don’t feel comfortable at work. Research has shown that half of women lack a mentor, and three-quarters need support. Since they’re not often invited to social events outside of work, they miss out on informal conversations.


Fewer women in tech due to, among other things, lack of workwear

In addition to reasons for leaving, the whitepaper also provides advice to employers. One of the recommendations focuses on workwear. The lack of suitable workwear, as well as personal protective equipment, is identified as a problem. Shoes, clothing, helmets, and gloves are often only available in larger sizes. As a result, women regularly wear oversized workwear, which makes them less comfortable and less protected. The advice is simple: consider women’s needs when ordering workwear.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I’ve been hearing and reading about the problems women face with workwear in technical roles for years. Often, this issue is dismissed as unimportant. After all, can’t they just wear men’s workwear? Some people even find it logical that it’s not offered. Because there are so few women working in this sector, it would be too expensive to invest in workwear for them.


Is the lack of workwear due to high costs?

The question is, what exactly is too expensive? When comparing it to men’s workwear in tech, purchasing women’s workwear is indeed more expensive. But this calculation is based on short-term thinking. Because the alternative is to have women work in men’s workwear, which is what often happens now. As a result, women are less comfortable and less protected. The risk of accidents is higher, and the costs of accidents must be covered by the employer. This includes not only medical costs but also the costs of any employee downtime. Is women’s workwear still too expensive?

Additionally, the aforementioned whitepaper highlights another issue. Namely, the fact that workwear influences whether women decide to stay in a particular sector or not. It may not be a decisive factor, but it certainly has an impact. With a growing labor shortage, one wonders if investing in women’s workwear is really such a high-cost item.

In short: if you want your company to grow and attract female as well as male employees, it’s time to take women seriously. Not just in words, but in actions. And that includes workwear.

Best regards,


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