Insights about top workplaces for women

As a community of 50,000+ women who work in the tech industry, we asked Elpha members to anonymously rate and review how likely they are to recommend their workplaces to other women.

Thousands of women have submitted ratings, with nearly 2,000 women offering additional commentary on the ratings they’ve chosen.

We teamed up with Thematic to share insights from a large subset of our data on what our members had to say about their employers. From their responses, we’ve uncovered the qualities our members believe make companies welcoming to women, and the reasons women choose (or choose not) to recommend their workplaces.

Our hope is that these insights shed light on how our members decided whether a workplace was women-friendly, so other companies can follow in their footsteps. With that, here are the most important trends and insights.

Takeaway 01

Internal networking opportunities are the most important attribute for a women-friendly workplace.

As one woman who gave her company a 10 wrote,

At our organization, they do a really great job at recognizing women and treating them as equal no matter background or experience. We have a networking group, a community of women to enhance each other’s personal and professional growth by fostering mentorship, professional development, and knowledge-sharing.

A woman from another company wrote, “Women here are valued, heard, and part of the community in a way that every female deserves to experience. We lift each other up and our company supports us.”

Takeaway 02

It's important to see women in positions of power.

Our analysis found that a woman founder was the biggest positive driver of a positive rating overall.

As one Elpha member (who scored her company with a 10) wrote, “Female founder, majority female board, majority female leadership team - an awesome place for women to work!”

We think women founders drive a culture of empowerment and mentorship for women employees. For example, those that scored 9 or 10 reported feeling able to voice opinions freely, feeling valued and respected by peers and managers, and reported having the belief that there are male allies within the company.

Although the company is not highly diverse (yet), there are women in key and important leadership positions, and the male allies are very visibly and vocally committed to helping to improve the diversity of the company.

What do women value in their companies?

Internal networking opportunities is a fancy way of saying a support system within your company. This can take many forms from the everyday interactions with your peers and managers, to frequent mentorship from people you aspire to be like, combined with the availability of role models to visualize yourself reaching that next career milestone. Networks are people in your corner, and for the best women-friendly workplaces that network provides sponsorship, lifting up women regardless of whether or not they are in the room.
Director Emerging Solutions, IBM

Takeaway 03

Work environments with power dynamics that are perceived as unhealthy and unbalanced drive the lowest scores.

Elpha members who rated their companies 1-5 cited poor direct management, microaggressions, and a “white-male-driven power structure” as contributing to environments they would not recommend to other women.

As one woman wrote, “Still have a lot of kinks to work out in their engineering culture, including a tendency to overhire white male referrals and underhire others. Turnover of women is high. I saw another female get called the wrong name, spoken over in meetings, forgotten about, etc.”

Women also mentioned mansplaining, harassment, and sexism as top causes for low company scores. One shared her experience:

The new VP of Engineering, when asked about the lack of women within the department and chronic under-leveling of female engineers, said that it was a "pipeline and merit" problem, much to the dismay of women who have seen their efforts go unacknowledged, and despite feedback about how problematic and uninformed his statements were, he never apologized. Within the engineering team, there are some well-meaning peers, but still lots of mansplaining, interrupting, stealing credit for women's ideas, and not taking women's ideas seriously. Outside of engineering, things might be better on specific teams, but the leadership and company culture is truly toxic for women.

What factors drive the lowest scores in workplacs for women?

Takeaway 04

Women take note when they see examples of other women succeeding at their companies.

Many of the women who gave their companies top ratings mention seeing other women succeeding internally – from women in senior leadership roles to examples of women receiving promotions internally.

As one Elpha member wrote,

We have female leadership across our C-Suite, VP, Director, and manager levels. As a female, I see a lot of female role models in my company who are strong and independent.

What makes women recommend their workplaces?

This is why it’s so important to make sure women have a seat at the table in entrepreneurship. When women are in positions of power, they create an environment in which other women are made to feel welcome and encouraged to push the envelope. In my own career, I’ve been inspired and encouraged by the women who came before me. I can readily name female professors, entrepreneurs, and other colleagues who have helped and guided me throughout my own career journey. I have tried to have that same positive influence on the next generation of professional women. It is my hope that situations like these - in which women take on more leadership roles and increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in their environment - will continue to grow within our society. Women have so much brilliance and ingenuity to contribute to our culture, and it is gratifying to be alive during a time when women are finally being empowered to take a leading role in entrepreneurship.
Professor of Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Harvard Business School

As the saying goes, representation matters. Talent from underrepresented groups often look for environments where people who look like them seem to be thriving. It’s important to be reminded of what’s possible, especially for those who are tired and have been burned by past organizations that were not diverse or inclusive.
Startup advisor, Head of People, and Diversity & Inclusion strategist

Takeaway 05

Women who have experienced gender bias, sexism, or harassment are the most likely to rate their workplaces as unfriendly to women.

11% of women who rated their workplace with a score of 4 or less mentioned sexual discrimination.

As one Elpha member from a large organization commented:

Although the company has D&I reps, the middle management support they are given is minimal. This creates a hostile environment as most women and people of color are looked at as tokens.

And another woman from a startup (around 200 employees):

I don’t have reason to believe the environment is hostile to women but we only have 1 female VP. I am also one of the only WOC.

What makes women NOT recommend their workplaces?

Takeaway 06

Smaller companies beat FAANG* as more women-friendly workplaces.

Women working at FAANG* companies mentioned gender bias, lack of women in leadership, difficulties getting promoted, and a lack of a work-life balance.

Although the benefits were lauded as better than average, reports of a “hostile environment” and lack of support negatively affected FAANG’s* scores.

One comment summed up the sentiment well:

While benefits are best in class, the attitudes of leadership and female representation at senior levels is much worse than it should be.

Another member at a FAANG* company wrote,

Very difficult to advance beyond senior. Women are regularly gaslit. The only acceptable line on gender bias from senior women is "I know there is discrimination, but I have personally never experienced it at this company" usually followed by advice to grow thicker skin to the less senior women.

And as one member in leadership said,

I've tried to make us more gender-balanced as a woman in power but haven't gotten budget to go out of my way to make the process more catered to women.

* - FAANG is usually defined as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, but in our case doesn’t include Netflix. We did not have enough ratings and reviews from Netflix to include them in this dataset.

What impacts how women rate FAANG* companies?

Takeaway 07

Paid paternity leave matters.

10% of women giving a score of 9 or 10 mentioned paid paternity leave, but 0% of Elpha members mentioned it when giving a score of 6 or less.

In addition to a flexible leave policy, women who rated their company highly mentioned nursing rooms in the workplace and fertility benefits, such as egg freezing.

As one woman who gave her company a 10 said,

This company is best in class when it comes to benefits for women. From fertility benefits to maternity leave, they have been a leader in giving more. Furthermore, this company was one of the first to give equal paternity leave benefits to dads.

What benefits matter to women in the workplace?

A final word

Gender parity does result in a better workplace for women. Having women in management matters. Women take note when companies put effort into inclusive benefits. And most importantly, the work environment you foster - whether welcoming or hostile, has a big impact.

If you want to build a company where women want to work, it’s our hope that you’ll consider these insights when thinking about the composition of your team, the ingredients for an inclusive culture, and the strategies you implement to retain talented women.

If you'd like to learn more about which companies rated most highly among our members, check out our top 10 workplaces for women list.