Women in Tech: Making Your Business More Female Friendly
Tech startups often struggle to find women to fill their vacancies. Here are some tips to help you get started in finding them-and keeping them.
In the UK, just 17% of employees in the technology sector are women [Source]. Things have been improving, with many companies making an active push to bring more women into their teams, but it can be difficult to know where to start.
A lot of companies will talk about hiring ‘the best candidates for the job’ regardless of their gender, and yet still find they’re struggling to find female applicants. The problem is often not the willingness of the company to hire more women, but that the way they are reaching out to candidates is potentially alienating before the applicants even send them their CVs.
To see if your approach is working for you, consider the gender ratio of applicants, not just your hires. This is a great way to see if the way you go about looking for new hires is overly gendered, and if you need to reconsider your angle.
We’ve written before about the many direct benefits having a more diverse workplace can bring to your startup, but the question of how to go about it can be a daunting one. There are a lot of great tips there for increasing your hiring pool, from altering potentially alienating recruitment ads, to trying out blind applications to remove unconscious bias. These are a great start for any business, but how can you go about hiring more women in the technology sector specifically?
Reach out for support
The good news is that you don’t have to do any of this on your own. There are lots of charitable organisations and companies dedicated to bringing more women into STEM fields through education, as well as supporting those already in the industry.
There are several organisations that can give you a broad overview, such as the Women’s Engineering Society, Women in Tech, and Code First: Girls many of which feature job boards, advice, and opportunities to connect with potential applicants.
Spread the Word Creatively
The other great thing about companies like this is the fact that they often run regular meetups, forming local communities to help connect women with support networks and potential job opportunities.
Meetup is a great resource for things like this, you can search for events in your city, and get in contact with event organisers. London in particular is a popular hotspot for meetups! Talking at events, appearing at meetups, and supporting networks is a great way to increase the profile of your business.
By engaging with the community more widely in this way, not only are you appearing more visible to people looking for work in the short term, but you are cultivating a reputation as a company that is sincerely invested in bringing more women into the industry in the long term.
Once you’ve started expanding your hiring pool, you can look into how to make your company as attractive and welcoming as possible to your potential new hires. Start by ensuring you have a decent standard of support for things like maternity leave and flexible hours. Then you need to look at the dynamic of your workplace. Where could improvements be made?
Ensure women are not talked over in meetings, that their opinions and input are valued and given equal consideration. Endorse, encourage and organise diversity training, and have clear points of contact employees can go to if they’re having issues, even if you can’t justify a full HR department.
By doing all this means that you won’t only find more female hires, you’ll keep them too, developing a great reputation for your business and helping contribute to a more healthy, diverse industry.
Prestige & Emotional Labour
It’s an observed phenomenon in many industries, but especially the tech industry, that the burden of people-oriented roles tends to fall to women, even ones that are hired for purely engineering-oriented jobs.
There are a number of complex sociological reasons for this, but it effectively means that women find they are doing more work than they are being paid for, and burning out faster as a result. This can also mean that they don’t have time to brush up on their technical skills, losing out on opportunities to develop and move up to roles with more associated prestige.
Examine your company’s structure, and see if you have designated people for certain roles, rather than an assumption of responsibility, and that those people are compensated for their extra time accordingly. Encourage all your employees to brush up on their intrapersonal skills. You’ll have a happier, more functional team, and a more efficient one to boot.
Diversity in the Interview Process
Having done all this, there is one final hurdle you’ll need to cross, to ensure you don’t alienate your potential hires. Interviews are as much for the candidates to find out about you as it is for you to find out about them, so you’ll want to get across how welcoming your company is.
Do women have an input in the interview process? How do you overcome bias? Can current female employees engage with the interviewees and talk about their experiences? Often a small startup doesn’t have a lot of resources to bring to the interview process, so your best bet is to keep your criteria for any position you need filling clear and precise.
Attracting more women to your company is a learning process where there is always room for improvement. But by fostering open communication with your team and support networks, you can reach a point where your workplace is more effective, and more healthy.