Ukrainian Victoria Repa, 28, co-founded the tech startup BetterMe at age 24, only a year after starting a career in information technology.

Five years later, Repa heads a 130-person firm that develops health and fitness apps downloaded by nearly 100 million people worldwide.

While Repa often finds herself to be the only woman in the room with male investors or CEOs, she doesn’t feel she has faced sex discrimination.  In fact, ambitious female entrepreneurs like Repa challenge the stereotype that IT is mainly a place for men.

“It is not hard to be a woman in IT. This industry appreciates the knowledge and the desire to grow,” said Romana Madai, a senior JavaScript Engineer at Ukrainian tech firm Intellias. “Gender has never influenced my achievements or career development.”


And yet, in Ukraine’s tech industry, only 22% of the country’s 200,000 tech specialists are women, according to surveys, up from 7% in 2011.

Local IT firms want to close this gap – for many reasons. Companies with higher gender diversity grow faster and deliver higher financial returns, according to numerous surveys. However, discouraged by bias and salary disparities, many women avoid the IT profession.

“We would like to hire more women for technical positions, but there aren’t enough of them on the market yet,” Repa told the Kyiv Post.

The number of women working in Ukrainian tech companies grew dramatically over the last decade: from 7% in 2011 to 25% today. Although the number of female specialists is climbing, few of them occupy senior roles and mostly work in administration, human resources and public relations.

Unequal environment

Just as it is for men, IT can be a good career choice for Ukrainian women. They can easily earn almost $2,500 a month – five times the average salary. More than money, the work environment values freedom and innovation, according to a survey by the Ukrainian tech media

“I have always dreamed of working without strict workplace rules or dress codes,” Madai said. “In addition, I feel that I am keeping up with the times and can afford everything I want.”

In IT, men often end up in executive or engineering roles while women can be found more frequently in administration, human resources and public relations. According to research by in 2019, only 10% of women in IT actually develop products and services. Here’s where bias creeps in.


Because most CEOs in tech companies are men, they tend to hire people who are “similar to them in interests, outlook, and gender,” according to Elena Mazhuha, the investment manager at the Ukrainian fund Genesis Investments.

“We often say to ourselves ‘I’m not ready yet,’ ‘I have to get the skills first,’ while men just go and learn in the process,” Repa said.

Surveys show that men still get paid between 5% to 24% more than women for similar performance.

Usually, men’s salaries are higher because they have more opportunities to climb the career ladder. Female employees, in turn, stay in low-paid positions longer or face subtle barriers, according to Valeriya Ionan, the deputy minister for European integration in the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation.

In addition, men generally have more experience in tech, which translates to higher income. Only 12% of women in tech have worked in the industry for over 10 years.

Ukrainian men and women usually get different salaries for doing the same job. The gender pay gap is becoming more noticeable among experienced employees who have worked in the industry for many years and occupy higher positions.

Need to change

For years, big tech kept silent about the number of women the sector employed. When U.S. behemoths like Google, Facebook and Apple released their gender diversity reports in 2015, less than 20% of their technical employees were women.


Ukrainian tech firms are aware of the disparities and have become vocal about the number of women they employ and promote. Although Ukrainian tech companies do not have gender quotas, they said they are trying to create a more welcoming environment for women.

The percentage of women working in Ukraine’s largest IT company EPAM has climbed to 22% from 16% a few years ago. The country’s second-biggest tech company SoftServe said that, among its 10,000 employees, 35% are women, with nearly half of them in management.

At Intellias, a Ukrainian company that employs over 1,800 people, 26% of tech specialists are women, 17% of them work in executive roles. At Beetroot, Ukrainian-Swedish company with over 500 employees and its own IT academy, 39% of techies are women, 40% of them work in management, 31% — in technical positions. At Genesis, a tech company that employs over 1,500 people, the number of male and female specialists is almost equal — 53% and 48% accordingly.

Biases, however, remain. “We fight biases all the time, especially those that say IT is an industry for males. We want people to think that the IT industry is for creative and smart people,” said Natalia Kolyadko, an expert responsible for talent development at EPAM Ukraine.


Ukrainian tech companies that spoke with the Kyiv Post have similar approaches: they organize anti-biased training programs for employees, encourage women to speak up and launch IT courses for children and teenagers. Many companies try to make applications gender-neutral and teach their employees how to stay impartial during interviews.

Among Ukraine’s 100 richest people, only three are women. Among all startups that apply for grants from the state startup fund, few are founded by women, according to Mazhuha. “The last time I judged this competition, only one in 10 startups was presented by a female founder,” she said.

Deep-rooted problem

Gender inequality is a problem ingrained in “culture, education and economics,” said Vitaly Sedler, CEO of Intellias.

Out of the 16,000 students graduating from Ukrainian universities with IT degrees every year, only 20% are women, according to the research by the Ukrainian Center for Economic Strategy. This disparity exists despite findings that Ukrainian males and females perform equally in mathematics and science.

Among the reasons why girls lag behind in these industries is the lack of role models who work in science and tech, according to Oleksandra Slobodian, an analyst of the Ukrainian think tank Cedos. For years Ukrainian girls have been told that a “woman’s place is in the kitchen, with her children,” said Nataliya Limanova, cofounder of a school called GIOS that encourages children to learn math.


Hiring more women in IT is seen as good for business and a way to meet the high labor demand in the local tech industry. Ukrainian IT needs about 50,000 tech graduates every year to continue its 20% growth. Local universities currently provide only a third of this number.

“There are so many things for us to do…After all, who can stop us, except ourselves?” Repa said.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter