In August of 2022, Lola Adewuya moved from Vancouver, Washington to the Bay Area to be closer to Google’s headquarters. She had worked in marketing for the tech company for two-and-a-half years and was excited to finally work in-person with many of her colleagues.
But five months later, on Jan. 20 of this year, the seemingly unexpected happened. Adewuya, 24, found out she was being laid off, alongside three other members of her seven-person team.
“I had a full-on panic attack, I'm not gonna lie,” Adewuya told Know Your Value. “After I read the email, I called my mom and just sobbed because it came as a complete surprise…"
Adewuya is one of 12,000 employees who were laid off by the tech giant’s parent company, Alphabet, this year. Other tech companies have made similar moves, including at Microsoft and Salesforce. Paypal and Groupon also recently announced that they’re planning for employee cuts. And this week, Dell slashed 5 percent of its global employee base, or 6,650 jobs.
For women working in tech, like Adewuya, these layoff numbers exacerbate an existing problem. Not only are women underrepresented in the industry (they make up around 26 percent) but they’re also disproportionally affected by the job cuts.
Research conducted by Eighfold AI found that women in tech were 65 percent more likely to be laid off than men.
And as FastCompany pointed out, approximately 45 percent of those who were laid off in the recent round of tech job cuts were women. That’s according to Layoffs.FYI, which monitors the tech industry. And although that’s less than half, that number is quite significant because women make up less than a third of tech industry workers.
Workforce experts said one reason why women in tech are being disproportionately laid off is because there are more women in roles that are often the first to be cut. That includes customer-facing roles like marketing, customer service, human resources and recruitment. There are also fewer women in more technical roles that are deemed essential, like engineering and coding.
Experts also said women and minorities are more likely to represent newer hires in tech, partially because greater remote work opportunities. But it’s also left them more susceptible to layoffs. “Many of these people who were hired recently, they are the last in. And quite often because they were the last in, they built fewer relationships among their colleagues and with their managers. So, they're also the first out.” Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, explained. “Because many of them were remote, they didn't have the opportunity to set up those personal relationships that often develops in the corridors, in the offices and around the water coolers.”
Sandra Lopez was recently laid off from her Chief Marketing Officer role at Microsoft Advertising after a year working at the company. Lopez said the news didn’t take her by surprise because “as an executive, you're pretty tuned [into] the business climate.” But she said she is worried about the long-term effects of the already low representation of women of color, like her, in tech.
“We represent the seventh largest economy in the world. We're the largest growing minority in the United States. It's not only about efficiency in this moment in time. It's also about making sure you have the right people to prepare you for tomorrow and to make sure that what you're developing will be relevant for your consumer audience,” Lopez said.
Chakravorti noted that the layoffs happening to women in tech now may impact the future of tech and artificial intelligence. “It is really important to have an AI workforce that is representative of the wider population,” he said. “If it is very skewed in one direction, whether it's gender or race, it introduces a degree of bias into the algorithm … The fact that women are being disproportionately let go also has an impact on the quality of the AI product that many of these companies are working on and developing.”
Despite the layoffs, the tech industry added nearly 260,000 jobs last year. The last time the sector saw numbers that high was in 2000. And although it remains to be seen if those hiring numbers will continue into this year (and how many of them will be filled by women), a ZipRecruiter survey from late October of last year, found that almost 80 percent of laid off tech workers found new jobs within three months.
Marisa Lascher, an expert in positive psychology and a human resource executive, shared a few steps on how to find resiliency after a layoff. She stressed the importance of “feeling,” “dealing” and “distancing.”
First, let yourself feel. “Welcome your emotions and get them out in productive ways like exercising, journaling, or talking to a loved one. Write yourself a compassionate letter about the situation: What would you say to a close friend going through your situation?”
In the deal phase, Lascher recommended getting focused by writing objectives for your job search. “Have clear results, measurable outcomes and update them as necessary. You are your own manager now – you have freedom to do what you want. Find an accountability partner who motivates and inspires you.”
And finally, distance yourself from your situation. Pretend you’re watching what’s happening in your life from far away to gain perspective and objectivity, she advised.
After getting laid off, Adewuya said she is taking this time to pivot and focus on her side gig – a design studio called The Brand Doula – and turning it into a full-time entrepreneurship venture. “I've never been more happy to have had this going on, to have a side hustle. To not put all of my eggs in this basket, no matter how secure it might feel,” she said.