This is a crowdsourced blog post from over 50 women working in technology curated by Emer Coleman (Technology Engagement at Co-op Digital) and Charlotte Jee (Editor of Techworld).
You are a company hiring for technical roles. You understand that diverse teams build better products and that’s better for your bottom line. You’ve actively instructed your recruitment company to seek out senior women in tech. But you’re getting nowhere.
You assume it’s because there are not enough women working in tech but how hard are you looking at what you are offering? Do you understand what women in tech look for when choosing their next role? Do you know that women in tech move less than men because the risks are higher? They have to make sure that it’s the right next step in their career, so they need to know what you offer them, and if it’s being “the diversity hire”…well that’s just not attractive.
We’ve spoken to over 50 women in tech and they’ve told us exactly what good looks like to them. If you are serious about your commitment to diversity in tech you need to start changing your processes and approaches to make yourself competitive. Here’s how:
- Take a look at what your current senior leadership team looks like. Do you have a female CTO or CEO? Is your leadership team all white? What about your Board? Most senior women will want to look beyond just the leadership team. They see diversity in the round and look for organisations that are diverse in class, race, LGBT people, ability/disability as well as gender So it’s not enough to add a token middle class, straight, white woman to your management team. Generally if people of colour are able to progress in an organisation it’s a good indication that the processes are fairer and unbiased. Details of how often people are promoted are readily available to potential employees on LinkedIn and company review websites.
- How many senior technical women currently work on your development teams? Many women don’t want to be the first female technical architect or first female senior developer. If the answer is none then you are going to have to work hard to develop processes and policies to convince your first hire that you are committed to changing the ratio and have a methodology in place to do so.
- Pay careful attention to the wording of your job advertisements. A study published in 2013 in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Evidence That Gendered Wording in Job Advertisements Exists and Sustains Gender Inequality) found “that masculine wording in job advertisements leads to less anticipated belongingness and job interest among women.” The study suggested that this perpetuates gender inequality maintaining the status quo. Based on this Kat Matfield has built a wonderful gender decoder to help you test whether your job advert has the kind of subtle linguistic gender-coding that has such a discouraging effect.
- Do you talk about unconscious bias in your organisation and as part of your recruitment process? If not why not? No one is intentionally biased against a certain person or profile, but it's an inherent part of everyone's learnt decision making process. We associate certain jobs with certain types of people. When looking at job applicants, we're more likely to use biases to analyse people that are the same sex, race, religious conviction and nationality. When we lack information our unconscious bias fills in the gaps. Companies need to address these behaviours at all levels within their organisation facilitating and training people to become self aware enough to avoid it. Women in technology continually face these biases so you will improve your success rate in recruiting women in tech roles if they know your organisation addresses it in formal and structured ways. And the research shows that men are often promoted for their potential; women are promoted for their experience. If you’ve got two equally-qualified people, don’t assume the woman can’t do it because she’s never done it before. You need to put women in the those same kind of stretch roles that companies historically — and continue to — offer to men.
- Do you have data and robust processes about diversity, fairness, salary, promotions and appraisals? Think about your bonus structure. Many women work differently than men and often this is recognised differently. Are you prepared to publish what percentage of females got the top level bonus in a given area? If it’s only men, people are left with the impression your culture may only award men bonuses. And as for advertising here is a good example: "Lyst is hiring an Engineering Manager/Director". The advertisement clearly states: “Additionally, we have robust process in place to scrutinise promotion and salary decisions to ensure we treat staff equally regardless of background." Most of the women who have contributed to this post have had long careers in tech. They were all of the view that they always felt there was a question mark over the difference between men and women’s salaries in the industry. It’s well known that, on balance, women are far less likely to negotiate a fair salary and shouldn’t be at a disadvantage because of this. Explicitly state what the salary range is in the job advert. Not declaring the salary just makes it more likely it’s unfair.
- Even better if you can actually demonstrate there is no gender pay gap. There are products developing in the market where you can actually dashboard this for your employees. Consider using a product like https://www.sliips.com/ which takes actual (anonymized) payslips to provide absolute transparency around pay. Of course this is even more important in the UK now since it’s the law for companies with staff in excess of 250.
- Work on deepening understanding around diversity at a senior level. This has to be a company-wide understanding, not just superficial, so you can increase your “diversity hires”. Women in tech see through this very easily. It’s what you do, not what you say, that counts. For example, are your diversity and inclusion panels only made up of “diverse” people i.e. where is the participation from senior leaders in the organization? And show, don’t tell, as Monzo have done here visibly demonstrating the progress that they are making over time. Likewise Slack are open about their diversity and inclusion approaches publishing the data on their blog.
- Provide clarity around things like flexible working, maternity leave etc. If as a company you offer enhanced maternity pay - then say so. Women don’t want to have to ask. If your people work part time, or can work from home - then say so. It’s even better if you can actually demonstrate that your senior people, both men and women, use flexible working hours. Getting your senior people to write about this on your company blog would be a good place to start. What about Shared Parental Leave?
- These are the kinds of things that women don’t want to have to ask about for fear of appearing uncommitted, so if as a company you offer these things, and they are offered without affecting people’s careers, then say so. Here’s a good example of US firms in the creative industry leading on the Pledge for Parental Leave and here’s a great blog from one of the Founders of Ustwo doing just that in the UK Family Before Fampany
- Provide clarity and talk about your working practices and culture. Do your people routinely remain at their desks until 7 or later, or do they work hard during the day and then go home on time? Either can work but it’s much better to make the culture clear and explicit so that you are offering the opportunity for women to make a clear and informed choice.
- Pay particular attention to your interview panels. Many senior women will get immediately turned off if they never see a woman in the interview process. People generally have a bias towards hiring people like themselves. So it’s critical that the interview panel and decision makers are as diverse as the talent that you want to hire. And don’t forget to seek out your candidates by attending conferences and events. Sign up to the pledge and only appear on panels that have women on them. Seek out women to speak at your conferences and to your staff.
- And finally don’t forget. Many of the conditions we are highlighting here as being attractive for women are increasingly attractive for men and completely taken for granted by millennials. One outlier in Silicon Valley is VC firm Andreessen Horowitz where women make up 55% of the workforce. According to its founder Marc Andreessen its diversity is key to its success. "If you don't have access to the best talent, if you confine yourself to a certain part of the talent landscape ... then you're just not getting the best people, and you're not going to build a high-quality company." So working to make your company more attractive for women will ultimately give you a major talent uplift across the board.
Anna Shipman Technical Architect, Government Digital Service
Anna Goss Product Lead Co-op Digital
Baroness Martha Lane Fox, Founder Doteveryone
Becky Arrowsmith, Software Engineer, Co-op Digital
Cassie Robinson, Strategic Design Director, Doteveryone
Charlotte Jee, Editor, Techworld
Chi Onwurah, Engineer, MP Newcastle
Claire Braithwaite, Ventures Director, Co-Op Digital
Danielle Haugedal-Wilson Head of Business Architecture & Analysis, Co-op Digital
Denise McQuaid, Director of Innovation, Comotion Consulting Ltd
Dr Sue Black OBE, Founder and CEO #techmums
Ella Fitzsimmons, Co-op Digital
Fiona Linton-Forrest, Content Designer, Co-op Digital
Gemma Cameron, Principal Software Engineer, Co-op Digital
Heather Savory Director General for Data Capability Office for National Statistics
Margarete McGrath, Management Consultant
Mary McKenna OBE Tech entrepreneur & Angel Investor
Nancy Richardson, Software Engineer, Co-op Digital
Naureen Khan, Government Relations Manager, Accenture
Nicki Sprinz Managing Director, ustwo London
Dr Rebecca Parsons, CTO Thoughtworks
Sarah Richards, Director, Content Design London
Sharon Cooper, Chief Digital Officer, BMJ
Victoria Mitchell, Delivery Manager Co-Op Digital
Rebecca Kemp, Freelance Digital Director
Sharon O'Dea, Digital Strategist
Marketa Mach, Global Associate Partner at IBM Interactive Experience
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