As tech company layoffs hit European workers in 2022, founders and investors raised concerns that the cuts would put the ecosystem even further behind on diversity.
New data shows those concerns could well be valid.
Women make up just over a third of the European tech workforce, but they represent 41.6% of layoffs since October 2022, according to an analysis of 233 laid-off employees by Layoffs.fyi, which tracks tech industry cuts.
While the sample size is small (European companies have made 16,177 people redundant since October, according to Layoffs.fyi) the data corroborates stories from female networks and tech workers across the continent that suggest women are being disproportionately affected by layoffs — further reducing female representation in the tech industry.
The data also mirrors the gender breakdown of a similar analysis of the US job market conducted by Layoffs.fyi, which has a bigger sample size, says Roger Lee, the platform’s creator.
And it would mirror a similar trend seen during the pandemic. In 2020, a report by McKinsey showed that 1 in 4 women globally were either forced to downsize their careers or leave work altogether to fulfil caregiving responsibilities.
Women the first to go
Like Minded Females (LMF), a London-based careers platform and inclusion consultancy, has conducted research into layoffs and their effect on diversity and inclusion. Its founder Sonya Barlow says that it found through feedback forms and consultancy calls with businesses that “significantly, women have been laid off far more than men.”
One of the reasons why this might be the case is that women are highly represented in roles in marketing, public relations, diversity and inclusion and HR — often among the first to be cut when a business is conducting layoffs, as they are not “business critical,” says Barlow.
Barlow adds that part-time roles, which are often occupied by women with children, parents and young professionals, have been the “first to go” in Europe’s sweeping tech layoffs.
Another reason why women might be more affected by layoffs than men is because they are “less represented in senior and technical roles… making them more likely to be seen as expendable from a role perspective,” says Hayley McCarthy, founder of online live training platform, Skiller Whale.
She uses the example of Twitter, where 57% of female employees lost their jobs compared with 47% of male employees.
A bad sign?
Female founders and investors have already expressed concerns that diversity is bound to slip during the economic downturn — with investors reverting back to making "network investments", which often exclude women and people of colour.
We are regressing not just in terms of gender, but also ethnicity, culture, social mobility and age
Barlow says that “from an inclusion standpoint, I think we are regressing not just in terms of gender, but also ethnicity, culture, social mobility and age.”
Many companies that have committed money to Like Minded Females for its diversity and inclusion consulting services have pulled contracts at the last moment, says Barlow, even after having signed on the dotted line — an ominous signal of tech’s waning commitment to diversity.
Ecosystem watchers have predicted that Europe’s tech layoffs will spawn more entrepreneurs, and Barlow thinks that a big proportion of them will be women. Though she worries about women’s ability to sustain their businesses long-term, given that female-founded businesses receive far less funding than those founded by men.
“We’re going to see a lot more moonlighting too, so women taking on more than one job on a part time or contractual basis, because then they’re really able to sustain their own level of independence,” says Barlow.
This article has been corrected to show that Skiller Whale is an online live training platform, not a developer focused platform.