Women in technology — or the lack thereof — is a tricky subject, and one that isn’t easy to resolve. Reports of bias, unequal pay, and limited opportunities abound. Even in the face of numbers that show a direct correlation between more women in leadership and higher returns on invested capital and sales, the tech industry remains confounded when it comes to finding, hiring, and retaining women.
If you want to increase diversity and take advantage of the creative contribution of the other half of the human race, there are some practical things you can do. Here are 10 things tech companies need to do if they want to recruit — and hold onto — top female talent.
1) Go Where the Women Are
In order to find female candidates, companies need to advertise where women are looking. It’s not hard to find online forums and communities that cater to the ladies of technology. Many of these sites, including big hitters like the Anita Borg Institute and Girls in Tech, have career boards and job postings. You don’t have to drop your usual posting practices, but augmenting your traditional recruiting efforts with ads on sites where technically talented women hang out will likely increase the number of female candidates applying to open positions.
2) Speak Their Language
This isn’t a riff on “Women are from Venus” — female candidates are often attracted to different things in a job listing than their male counterparts. The tech industry is known for being brash, casual, and having the best perks a techie could ask for, but a lot of the language and benefits are tailored to young males. To attract female tech savants, emphasize flex time and on-site massages instead of free beer and the latest gaming consoles. Look at the words you use to describe your ideal candidate. Terms like “rock star” and “ninja” have distinctive male leanings. The key to a more inclusive workplace very well may start with the words you use to describe it.
3) Become More Family-Friendly
It doesn’t matter how hip or edgy a company is, people are still bound to start families eventually. Wired reported that “the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of women said being a working mother made it harder to advance their careers, compared to 16 percent of fathers.” To keep awesome female employees, take a look at your family-friendly policies. Making moms feel valued and respected can be as easy as offering child care assistance, providing a room for nursing mothers, or providing generous parental leave. And don’t overlook a proactive transitional program that invites new parents to come back to a supportive workplace environment.
4) Provide Upward Mobility
One thing that drives women out of the tech workforce is limited opportunity. You’ll go a long way to attracting and keeping talented women by focusing on their future. Mentorship programs are a great way to foster growth and longevity. It shows you are invested in the women who work for you and see opportunity for them to grow and excel professionally. Encourage them to take additional training and attend professional conferences — and provide financial support for such opportunities. Women will be a lot more likely to invest in your company if you’ve invested in them.
5) Equal Pay for Equal Work
This should go without saying, but women in technical jobs should be paid the same as their male counterparts. Take a long, hard look at your payroll to see if there is inequity between male and female employees who are doing the same job. Implement a grading system that is tied to the job description, not the individual in the position. Evaluate your review processes and note trends in promotions and raises. Anywhere you see inequity, you need to start over.
6) Be Flexible
The modern workplace is changing. People can now work from virtually anywhere, including a Caribbean beach chair. Flexibility is one of the most important things to today’s workers, especially women who are trying to balance their roles at home and in the office. Offering flexi time and remote work options can pique female employees’ interest in a job and increase their desire to stay on board. If your office embraces flexibility, emphasize that in job postings and recruiting information.
7) Start at the Top
It can be difficult to inspire a new female recruit with her long-term prospects at your organization if there are no women in leadership. Provide female role models at every level of leadership, and actively encourage women to go after promotions and seek advancement. If women aren’t represented at the executive level, what motivation is there for a female candidate to join your team? Commit to diversity in leadership — and include at least one woman in the recruitment process.
8) Build the Right Pipelines
Creating a more diverse tech workplace isn’t going to happen overnight. Companies that are truly dedicated to change need to play the long game. Start building relationships right now with technical programs, schools, and organizations. Set up internship or job-shadowing programs that give girls and women the opportunity to test out your company and the possibilities a tech career offers. Volunteer to speak to a high school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) group and sponsor training programs or scholarships for female students.
9) Implement Diverse Hiring Strategies
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding diverse, qualified talent to add to your organization. Be sure to include at least one female employee in the recruiting process, and regularly evaluate all job descriptions and postings for exclusionary language. Diversity associations like Women in Technology can help you create recruitment collateral with a diversity focus. Participate in career fairs that target diversity and partner with organizations focused on getting women into the workforce.
10) Teach Managers How to Manage
Very few of us are naturally gifted managers, and in fast-moving tech companies and startups it’s easy for people to get promoted without any idea of what it means to manage. Managers that were thrust into leadership may be unwittingly sabotaging your efforts to increase the number of women on staff because women have been found to suffer more from poor managers than men. Provide managers with training to help them understand the psychology of leadership, what motivates employees, and how to recognize and combat bias.
It’s undeniable that the lack of diversity in the tech world is damaging — for individuals and corporations. As with any real problem, it requires real solutions. That means companies need to do the hard work of scrubbing their practices for discrimination and bias and make the cultural changes necessary to entice, embrace, and hold on to female tech talent.
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