Here are eight ideas for how the tech industry and employers of IT talent can attract, retain and nurture more women technologists.
At this time when women leaders are breaking through defiantly and historically stubborn glass ceilings, from Vice President Harris entering the Executive Branch to Paretta Autosport’s first all-women team qualifying for the Indy 500, it’s important to consider how we maintain a steady flow of women into male-dominated workplaces. While the big breakthroughs are inspiring, how do we ensure that more women leaders and innovators can come in behind the ceiling smashers, right the gender imbalance and thrive?
For the tech sector, that question has been a challenging one to answer. Despite plenty of focus on the issue, women remain outnumbered in tech and hard to retain.
According to the TrustRadius 2021 Women in Tech Report, 72% of women in tech say they are outnumbered by men 2-to-1 or more; 26% (more than a fourth) report being outnumbered by 5-to-1 or more. A study from Accenture and Girls Who Code found that half of the young women who go into tech jobs leave the field by age 35.
To leverage the momentum of ceiling breakers and the energy of young women who are graduating with STEM degrees in record numbers, tech and business leaders need to do more across many areas, from recruitment and training to culture building. One or two well-intentioned efforts simply won’t have the impact needed to make lasting change for women in tech. To start thinking and acting bigger, here are eight ideas for how the tech industry and employers of IT talent can attract, retain and nurture more women technologists.
1. Network Outside Your Usual Suspects
Every business today needs to broaden its recruitment networks to attract diverse talent. It’s normal to fall into patterns in recruiting, seeking out talent from the same set of schools, talent boards or local associations. But how many businesses can say their established recruitment patterns are yielding top results when it comes to delivering women candidates?
Shake up your sources by looking into groups, schools, training programs and networking associations that focus on women and BIPOC talent. Ask employees to share events or sources they think might reach more women. Ensure HR and recruitment teams are constantly curious and flexible when it comes to pursuing talent sources.
2. Encourage Company Influencers And Leaders To Build More Diverse Networks
Company leaders who are the face and voice of your company also play a role in recruitment. The work they do to elevate the company profile through speaking engagements, publications and media will attract candidates. By supporting, following and joining groups and associations that empower women and other diverse talent pools, your tech company’s influencers expand and diversify the candidates who are discovering and seeking out your organization.
3. Remove Gender Bias From Job Descriptions
It might surprise you to learn that the language and structure of job descriptions can be biased. Is your business unconsciously targeting or excluding women candidates in how it communicates its opportunities? Examine whether job titles and pronouns are gender-neutral. Even requirements within job descriptions, like majors, can communicate bias. Are “desired majors” all from male-dominated areas of education? Look for places where expanding experience and education categories might open the field to a more diverse talent pool.
4. Build Women-Centric Mentoring And Training Programs
With women outnumbered in tech workplaces, training and mentorship programs that focus on the needs of women can be a way to create more support and recognition of women’s career goals and potential. Proactively encourage men to either mentor or become a mentee of their women colleagues. Ensure women colleagues are being offered the same opportunities as their male colleagues to participate in training and gain new skills.
5. Watch For Unintentional Exclusion
Ask managers to watch if team-building or social events organized through peer groups or teams are excluding women or diverse colleagues. This often happens innocently and unintentionally because it can feel less complicated to invite a colleague of the same gender. But look at how events unfold.
Are men meeting for drinks, coffee or lunch regularly without inviting or including women or diverse colleagues? Do work-based sports or gaming leagues include everybody? Everyone knows strong connections can be built off the clock. If women or diverse team members aren’t included, they miss the chance to connect.
6. Increase Communications Training
The tech industry is not known for high emotional intelligence or sophisticated communications soft skills. Good communications training for all employees can improve the overall work environment, reducing the likelihood of harassment and misunderstandings and improving collaboration and understanding.
7. Give Everyone At The Table A Voice
The fact is, not every manager is good at sensing imbalance in team communications and collaboration, especially when timelines are tight, or workloads are heavy. Having other leaders sit in on meetings can help identify issues they might not see. Are women being interrupted more than male colleagues? Are the same few people answering all the questions for the group? Are men the talkers and women the listeners and note-takers in meetings?
Strive to ensure that everyone knows their voice matters and has a chance to be heard. While not every standup or team meeting can showcase every idea and opinion, a tech business, or any business, must work to find balance in who is speaking and who is listening.
8. Champion Women Colleagues’ Achievements
Let women and the business know how important their contributions are to the company’s success. Showcase their work and achievements with awards and recognition that demonstrate to the entire organization that women are valued and that their efforts matter.
Tech leaders should not be shy about communicating to their colleagues throughout the company that reducing the gender gap is an important and shared business goal. If diversity is a shared business value, let the entire organization share the challenge of getting more women into tech — and keeping them there.