In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz around the lack of female representation in tech positions. The overarching consensus seems to be that, from Silicon Valley to everyday web developer jobs, the problem isn’t so much a lack of talent or interest on the part women as it is tech culture itself. Essentially, as men have traditionally dominated the tech industry, recruiting and hiring practices tend to range from discouraging to outright discriminatory toward female talent.
With tech and digital leading most segments of just about every industry in terms of growth and opportunities, companies simply cannot afford to omit the experience and insight of one-half of the human population from their tech culture. Indeed, closing the gender gap in your IT departments can be just the kind of competitive edge you need to succeed in your future efforts.
The Scope of the Under-Representation
According to the World Bank, women account for 56 percent of the US labor force. However, the average percentage of women working in the tech industry falls around 30 percent.
While Microsoft’s workforce maintains that 70/30 male-female split, only 16 percent work in technical positions and 23 percent hold leadership roles. Twitter also reported that women fill only 10 percent of their technical jobs and just 21 percent of leadership positions. These figures highlight the relatively small number of women influencing product development and business strategy in the tech industry, the two highest rungs on the corporate ladder.
This practice not only compromises women’s accessibility to quality employment opportunities in tech, but it’s also detrimental to your business. So recruiting top female tech talent at all levels of your organization should be a priority for your business. And if it is not already, you might want to look at how your IT recruiting practices and policies can honed to appeal to the kind of female tech talent that your business will need to succeed.
1- Proactively Recruit Women
Many tech companies fail to find top female tech talent simply because they lack a sheer volume of talented women in their pipeline. The ratio of men to women in the tech industry as a whole is currently estimated around 90/10. So if you’re not actively recruiting top female talent, you may even struggle to achieve that lopsided ratio.
If you’re a small company just trying to break onto tech scene, your competitors most likely have established programs that help them attract the best tech talent available. Women are much more likely to work for companies that already employ a women in tech or leadership positions, which means male-dominant tech startups must work even harder to recruit top female talent.
This, of course, begs the question: how exactly are you supposed to be more proactive about attracting female talent through your recruiting efforts. Well, just keep reading and find out.
2- Create a Female Friendly Hiring Process
In tech companies or departments founded by men, the hiring processes can easily become gender-biased – straight through from the recruitment to the interview process.
At the recruitment level, companies should be conscious of how they label and advertise job openings . Advertising for a ‘Content Ninja’ or ‘Marketing Rockstar’ can subconsciously cause qualified female candidates to ignore these opportunities entirely. From a recruitment standpoint, then, simply making the hiring process more gender-neutral can significantly improve the pool of female talent applying for the position.
The hiring process, however, can be gender-biased beyond the application process. Interview questions, for instance, often inadvertently favour male candidates over their female counterparts by approaching subject matter from a male point of view.
Questions such as “What’s your favorite action movie?”, for example, can alienate female candidates. While this is a bit of a pithy example, it’s important that recruiters develop an interview process that allows and encourages female candidates to discuss their own passions and reasons for pursuing a career in tech.
3- Hire Women for Leadership Positions
Women, just like men, want to know that the company they’re going to work for will give them room for growth and advancement. If your company lacks a number of women in key leadership positions, female candidates that aspire to these types of positions may shy away your available opportunities.
It’s easy to sell a female candidate on your commitment to career advancement during the interview process, but proving this with your actions once she is hired is also vital. Creating leadership development programs and fostering mentorships for female employees can help you attract aspiring female tech leaders. At the very least you’ll be adding diversity to your workforce, which ultimately helps your company achieve positive, well-rounded growth.
4- Offer Flex Time / Telecommuting Options
According to Katharine Zaleski and Milena Berry (the two mothers responsible for creating PowerToFly), one of the primary reasons why this considerable gender gap still exists in the tech industry “is that tech companies aren’t giving women—particularly mothers—the flexibility they need to raise a family and pursue their careers at the same time.”
“There are two bad choices for women: go back to the office full-time or slowly lose your career because you can’t go back to the office full-time,” says Zaleski, a former editor at The Huffington Post. “The vast majority of women will become mothers and face the same choices we faced,” Zaleski continued. “The amount of women in the workforce peaked in 1999, and that’s because there’s no third way. We see ourselves as creating that option.”
Zaleski and Berry’s online job platform helps women connect with employers that are willing to allow them to work remotely, at least during and for a time after their term of pregnancy. While the platform is designed to give women more flexible employment options, it’s also a great tool for tech companies to improve their gender imbalance. “You hear these guys talk about education, education, education,” says Zaleski. “Well, that’s 10 years out. Why not invest in the women who are here now?”
5- Create a Less Gender Biased Work Environment
Many tech and engineering teams have worked hard to create an atmosphere in which their male-dominant workforce can thrive. While it would be rash to make huge and sudden changes that negatively impact existing employees, a work environment that clearly favors male employees will often wind up pushing quality female tech talent away.
Start by incorporating organizational or management practices that better accommodate the female experience. If you already have a number of females on your staff, seek their input as to what might make them more comfortable in their work environment.
Designing a less gender biased work environment will help your company attract, and retain, female tech talent. Even making a few changes to office aesthetics or reconsidering the type of group bonding events you run can significantly improve your ability to recruit top female tech talent.
Make it a Priority
When it comes to your bottom line, recruiting qualified females in the tech industry is a sound business practice. According to McKinsey, “companies in the top quartile in terms of racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, and that those in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely” to perform above industry averages as well.
A few companies in Silicon Valley have recently come under fire for the lack of gender balance in the workplace. While many tech start-ups have been founded by male-driven group of entrepreneurs, the resulting culture ends up neglecting the importance of how female perspectives and insights drive innovation and growth. Indeed, women have actually been the lead adopters of technology, and Dow Jones recently found that successful starts, on average, have more women in senior positions than their failed competitors.
As you can see, there are ample reasons to be concerned about workplace diversity in the tech industry, and recruiting top female talent will only become more essential in the coming years. Actively increasing the number of women in your talent pipeline, creating a gender neutral hiring process, hiring women for leadership positions, offering flex time, and creating a less gender biased work environment are just a few of the actions you can take to successfully recruit, and retain, qualified female tech professionals.