Study shows women still face hurdles in high-tech careers

NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Female scientists, engineers and product developers still face barriers in climbing the career ladder due to a lack of role models, mentors and access to networks, according to a new study.

Even though there has been some progress since the beginning of the decade, nonprofit research group Catalyst said certain issues remain problematic for women in the high-tech workforce.

It found that two areas in particular were critical -- the interaction with their supervisors and the lack of opportunities to voice their opinions in the decision-making process.

“I think that there are unique challenges that technical women face, because it is such an incredibly male dominated sphere,” said Heather Foust-Cummings, who headed the research group.

Women engineers and product developers were satisfied with their jobs, but were less pleased when it came to any measure relating to supervisors than technical men and non-technical men and women.

Although demand for employees with technical skills has jumped in the 21st century, the overall percentage of jobs held by women in technical fields has declined in recent years, according to the study.

Catalyst warned that the concerns raised by the women in the study represent substantial obstacles in the increasingly competitive battle for talent in the industry.

“People join companies, but leave supervisors,” said Debbie Soon, a vice president at Catalyst.

“In high-tech organizations people who have great technical skill often advance into managerial roles, and while these folks may be stellar technicians, they are often not given the support and training to enable them to be equally good managers,” she said.

The main complaint of women about their supervisors was that they weren’t available when needed, didn’t give regular feedback and weren’t responsive to suggestions.

The study included employee-satisfaction surveys from 21 global high-tech companies and an online study of almost 500 respondents.

Catalyst said companies should focus on more face-to-face training for managers, as well as programs that address different leadership styles.