by Sydney Stone
The IT industry has been dominated by men for decades. That needs to change.
There are many reasons high-tech has been a late adopter when it comes to hiring more women. False perceptions and stereotypes, toxic work environments, biases in the hiring process, and failures in communication are just a few. The sad fact is that so many companies are missing out on highly skilled and extremely motivated women that can deliver great value and growth.
How do you make sure that your organization is not overlooking exceptionally qualified women for IT positions? And what are the specific benefits that female software developers bring to a predominantly male industry?
Let’s take a look at why diversity matters, why there are so few women in IT, how the industry is changing, and how to hire (and keep) more female techies.
Why diversity matters
Diversity delivers a variety of skills, different points of view and new ideas to many corporate challenges, resulting in higher revenue, happier employees, and an increase in customer satisfaction and engagement.
There is a definitive link between diverse workforces and company profitability. In a 2018 study, Boston Consulting Group found that companies reporting higher-than-average diversity in management teams experienced 19% higher revenue than those with lower-than-average scores. That same year, a McKinsey & Company report determined businesses ranking in the top 25th percentile for diversity were 21% more likely to post a profit than those that didn’t.
Having a more diverse workforce also leads to higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover rates. Equal representation within a company fosters a sense of belonging…a sense of family. This in turn leads to a happier and more productive staff that is less likely to jump ship to another company that might not provide the same welcoming environment. Focusing on and promoting diversity can give an organization a huge competitive advantage.
Diversity also matters to customers. This is especially true of today’s transparency obsessed and socially conscious consumer. Corporate reputations matter now more than ever, and organizations that are perceived as being sexist will experience high levels of backlash, public shaming, and even costly boycotts.
Why are there so few women in tech jobs?
In 2018, women accounted for more than half the entire U.S. workforce, but the male to female ratio in the technology industry was 74% to 26%. This is according to statistics compiled by the National Center for Women & Information Technology. The news is worse for C-level positions, as only 20% of Fortune 500 companies currently have a woman as their Chief Information Officer.
So why are there so few women in IT? Basically because the odds have been stacked against them for quite some time. Here are the three biggest reasons.
1. Gender stereotyping & false perceptions
Women have historically been pigeonholed into “nurturing” careers such as teaching, nursing, and childcare, while men have been dominant in industries involving math and science – like finance and technology.
The false perception that women aren’t good at math reached a fervor point in 1992 thanks to Teen Talk Barbie. The doll was programmed with different phrases, but the one that caused the uproar had Barbie lamenting, “math class is tough!” Female consumers, educators, and women’s groups were extremely critical, forcing Mattel to apologize and discontinue the doll. It also forced them to re-think the entire Barbie brand. Today, Mattel has a partnership with Tynker Coding for Kids to provide a Barbie You Can Be Anything programming experience.
2. A culture of sexism & misogyny
In her 2018 book entitled, “Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley,” writer Emily Chang exposed the hypocrisy and misogyny of the IT industry.
Chang describes a work environment that included drugs, strippers, and even sex parties. Female co-workers are expected to willingly participate in this atmosphere in order to further their careers.
Former (emphasis on former) Google engineer James Damore published a manifesto in 2017 that stated all the reasons he believed women couldn’t succeed in the tech industry, specifically citing what he considered inherent biological differences that made men more suited for tech jobs than women (i.e., women are more artistic, social, and “neurotic.”) Of course, this manifesto resulted in his firing, but it also laid bare a toxic culture that explains the dearth of women in tech.
3. Lack of advancement
The main reason that women who actually make it into the tech industry don’t stay is because they see no path to advancement. That’s according to a 2018 Indeed “Women in Tech” report.
The majority of women currently in tech are holding junior positions, and they stay in those positions for quite some time. HackerRank recently disclosed stats that prove that roughly 20% of women over the age of 35 are stuck in junior roles.
Is it any wonder that women have been reluctant to enter an industry in which the odds are clearly stacked against them? The good news is that the IT times…they are a-changin.
The future of women in technology
The “me too” and “time’s up” movements have recently seen men-behaving-badly exposed and held accountable. Women are stepping up and demanding equal treatment and equal opportunities across all industries. This is paving the way for women to succeed in various types of technical careers.
There are also numerous organizations helping to increase the number of women interested in IT, from Women Who Code to STEM For Her and the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Women who seek advancement in the technology industry have more encouragement and support now than any other time in history.
Companies of all sizes, eager to enhance their public profiles and increase their female customer base, are aggressively recruiting women for tech-related jobs. And the talent pool from which these companies have to choose from is growing. Currently, more women are graduating from college with Computer Science degrees than men. In fact, more women than men are graduating college period.
There’s never been a better time to hire highly-qualified women for technical positions. Here’s how you do it.
How to hire female developers (and how to keep them!)
Hiring female engineers is not rocket science. Neither is hiring a female rocket scientist. (See what I did there?) But the process does require some thoughtful planning for both recruiting and retention. Here are four ways to attract, hire and keep female tech employees.
1. Fine tune your corporate image.
Take a quick look at your company website. Is the content gender-neutral or does it skew masculine? Is there an employee photo page that features an equal ratio of women to men? Is your messaging inclusive or exclusive?
What about your corporate policies? You should have clear, well-crafted statements on paid leave, work-life balance, and equal pay (as well as a zero-tolerance for workplace sexual harassment.) All of these policies should be promoted on your website, social media channels, and in your recruiting and marketing materials.
Pay specific attention to the language used in job descriptions and postings. Make sure to use language that doesn’t discourage women from applying. Buffer saw a dramatic increase in the number of female applicants simply by changing the wording in its job descriptions from “hacker” to “developer.”
2. Utilize diversity recruiting platforms.
Using technology to hire the best tech candidates (regardless of gender) is a no-brainer best practice.
There are many solutions on the market that help lessen the chance of hiring biases, including SAP’s Job Analyzer and Fetcher. Screening resumes through a gender-blind process will increase the number of women making it through to the interview stage.
Not only do these next-generation HR applications help promote diversity, but they can also automate a large portion of the recruiting process, saving you enormous amounts of time, money, and headaches.
3. Reach out to women’s tech groups.
If you want to find a plethora of qualified women in tech, go straight to the source.
Plus, attending these events and getting involved as either a mentor or sponsor can elevate your public profile as a company committed to diversity in hiring.
4. Provide equal opportunities for advancement.
After spending so much time and effort to attract the best female web developers and IT professionals, make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them.
The number one reason that women leave tech jobs is because they feel they have no chance for advancement. It is imperative to provide women with a clear career-growth trajectory that is equal to the promotion opportunities available for male IT workers within your company.
A pathway to career advancement for women should begin the moment the initial job description is developed. And it should be communicated to and discussed with the candidate during the interview and followed up throughout the performance review process.
Women in IT still have a long way to go to achieve equality in the tech industry. But the odds are stacking in their favor. Old ways of thinking are constantly being disrupted as companies reap the benefits of higher revenues brought about as a direct result of increased diversity in the workplace.
Does your company have a solid plan to capitalize on the emergence of women in IT? Or will you be branded as another late adopter?