Gender in the Workplace Study

Gender in the Workplace Study

Over the past three months, we have been reaching out to learning system vendors throughout the world, seeking to find information on the number of female executives at their companies and whether or not they had a leadership development program, and if so, what are the breakdowns?

This post covers what will be included in the study, what are some early takeaways, when the report will be published, and some additional information.


The question to why investigate this, why look only at learning systems, and why now, is multi-fold. 

There has never been a research study on gender in the workforce in the e-learning industry, and because the learning system drives the largest amount of revenue in the industry, I choose to focus on that segment first. 

I wanted the research to not just be focused on one specific country, rather to go global and see if there are trends based on where in the world, the learning system was located.

Additionally, I wanted it to be a multi-layered study, not just a bunch of data, but really a deep dive.

Diversity is not part of the study, and there is a specific reason on why that is. Many countries do not collect any sort of data in terms of breakdowns of race.  As a result, vendors in those countries themselves do not collect or keep track of such data. France for example is one such country.  Thus, presenting a diversity breakout across say the U.S. and UK, as the only two, wouldn’t provide a balanced study, when vendors in other countries are following their respective countries mandates. 

What will be presented in the report

1. The data

Clearly the big item here –  the data will come all various sizes of companies, from start-ups to the biggest names in the industry, and thus very large employee base.  If the learning system is owned by a larger parent company, then the data is of the entire entity, although there were a couple that just noted themselves (which is fine). 

Specific numbers were captured, so if someone responded with a percentile, we went back to get actual numbers.  In the final study, the data is aggregated.  There a couple of exceptions, and it is only noted in the study, with the vendor’s permission. For example, there are a few systems where the top execs are all women.  It is extremely rare, but it exists. 

2. Interviews

I conducted interviews with several female executives from various vendors, located throughout the world.  In the final report, their company of course is noted, along with themselves.  Everything is intertwined, so this won’t be just here is the person, here are their responses. I selected the companies based on multiple factors, which will be listed in the study as part of an addendum. 

3. Data from other sources.  To gain a better understanding, data needs to be collected and presented that covers not just our industry, but other industries as well.   Certain industries were selected, that cross-over our space.  These industries include technology.

Data was also collected based on latest Labor reports from various countries.  There are countries which do not have specific breakdowns, so a sample of countries were selected.  Again, methodology will be noted. 

One area of data collection, relevant I think in today’s learning system industry, is tied to venture capitalists and private equity firms, and what percentage of companies founded by women receive funding compared to their male counterparts.  In today’s post you will find out.  The study includes it as well.

The study/report will include additional data including the number of women who founded an e-learning company – this is the only time where e-learning as a whole is brought into the equation.  The data breakdowns will be by continent, so Europe, North America and Asia. Other continents did not have sufficient data to present, so that will be something to look out in the future. 

4.  Hypothesis and Conclusion

As with any research project, the hypothesis, and a conclusion are essential. Both items are presented.  I did not do say a literature review – after all, this isn’t a thesis or dissertation. 

5.  Writing Style

The study is focused and written in a write to the point approach.  Similar to the way I write my blog, sans the witty banter. The style is what is referred to as new journalism and is the way I always write (for those wondering). 

I leveraged my background in Journalism, and followed that approach, including in the interviewing process.  Thus, there wasn’t everyone gets the same question approach with the interviews.  Questions were based on the flow of the discussion, upon what the person said or didn’t say, and so forth.  This is the best way, in my opinion in conducting an interview.

6. The study will come with a table of contents, and yes a couple of addendums.   One addendum will list the vendors who participated in the study.  Another will list those who outright declined (and stated as such to us) and those who never responded to our inquiries, despite multiple requests.  

When will the study be published

In mid-September of 2019.   It will be 100% free and available for download on  A summary with key findings will be published on this blog, with a link to where the report can be viewed and downloaded.  

Quick Takeaways

It is my believe that there is a systemic problem in the learning system space regarding the number of female executives in relation to their male counterparts.  Men make up more than just the majority, they make up a staggering high number.  This aligns to data that is seen in the tech industry as a whole, and in the Fortune500. 

Leadership development programs are no better.  The ratios are poor as a whole.  A troubling trend because when you think about, how can a learning system target L&D professionals and L&D executives, and yet they themselves either do not have a leadership development program themselves (data to be presented in our report) or that the ratio of male to females is of real concern.  

This isn’t to say that every company’s ratio is for the lack of a better word, poor, as there were systems whose ratios were either equal or above average.  Some vendors noted that they do not look at gender as a factor in who is placed into a leadership development program. But what we found interesting, is the ratio of male to female executives in those same companies.   Those results will be published.

Three Data Points (the report will contain a significantly quite more)

  • 6.6% – Percentage of female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies – (As of June 2019, Fortune magazine).
  • .09% – Percentage of female CEOs/Managing Directors in the learning system industry, if you subtract the number of women who founded the learning system company, the percentage is significantly lower
  • 7% – Percentage of VC funding that goes to women (Center for Venture Research)

Interesting Tidbits

In conducting background research I found that the top three areas/departments that are overseen by female executives are Human Resources, Marketing and Customer Service.  The data in the learning system follows the same pattern.   It is rare, although it does exist to find a woman overseeing a department such as Engineering, in the learning system industry.

Many vendors responded to us that they were just about to start a leadership development program. And there were some who do not have a leadership development program. 

Participation (as of July 18th) – Overall, the response has been fantastic.   It is great to see vendors in the learning system space who wanted to participate in what we believe to be important and relevant in today’s business environment. 

The list (More are on their way – based upon feedback from the vendor)

LinkedIn Learning, Cornerstone, Skillsoft/SumTotal, Workday Learning, Cross Knowledge/Wiley, eLogic Learning, Saba, Growth Engineering, Unicorn LMS, Learning Technologies Group (Instilled, PeopleFluent, among others),  Degreed, Blackboard, Instructure, Absorb, Axonify, D2L, Agylia, Biz Library, EdCast, UpsideLMS, Coorpacademy, Ethos CE, Eurekos, Fuse, GyrusAim, Cypher Learning (MATRIX, NEO), Neovation Learning System, NETEXAM, Academy of Mine, Skilljar, Unboxed Technology, Learn Amp, WBT Systems, emTrain, Knowledge Anywhere, FirstVenture EdTech, LearnUpon, Brainier LMS, Docebo, Talent LMS (includes eFront and Talent Cards), Udutu, ePath Learning, Learnnovators, HT2 Labs (Curatr, Learning Locker), eCom Scotland, Meridian KSI, Abara, GO1, Learning Pool, Thought Industries

Those who notified us that they declined to participate (okay one)

SAP  – Their reasoning was related to time, they didn’t have time to do it (Companies they own include of course themselves, SuccessFactors and SAP Litmos)

Crickets – Hello? Anywhere there?  Earth to you..Earth to you..

Multiple requests were made over a period of three months

Adobe, Oracle, Coursera, Healthstream, OpenEDX, Panopto VLP, Wisetail, Intellium, Schoology, NorthPass, Paradiso Solutions, Pluralsight, Kineo US, Workjam

I can’t say why, because honestly I do not know, why those vendors declined. One vendor Udemy, informed us they would participate, but since then have gone silent. Another said they would consider it, then silence  – that vendor is Lessonly.

This isn’t about shaming any of these vendors, but I am very much aware that readers will inquire about this or that vendor not being on the participation list, and thus, the other list of silence and not wanting to participate.

I left out those vendors who we are still in contact with, so your vendor may be on there (if you are unsure, contact me either below in the “comments” or via “LinkedIn” – message me, or via Twitter – DM me or contact me via e-mail.) – I will let you know. 

And is it too late to participate? Absolutely not, but data collection ends on July 25th.  

Bottom Line

I truly believe that this study is necessary.

That we all need to know, once and for all, where the learning system stands in terms of gender equality at the executive level and in leadership development programs. 

Have we progressed from the “Boys network” or have we regressed?

There is only one way to find out.

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