Today is International Day Of Women In Science – how can we get more girls and women into tech?

Hiring inclusively – Women in Technology & Racial/Ethnic Diversity

“Women in Tech (WiT)” has been a phrase thrown around in a number of my gigs, whether it be in meetings, engagement forums, diversity and inclusion focus groups or even during roundtable discussions with other talent leaders within technology.

It has raised various questions, such as:

– Do we need a WiT forum in an organisation – and is it inclusive or exclusive to have one?

– What is the point of a diversity group; what does it achieve?

– Does diversity and inclusion already exist in our respective organisations and how can we harness this culture of equality in a sector?

In my (humble) opinion, I think it is important to have a diverse workforce. In my recently published e-book, I raise points on how symbolic or significant the drift and race towards a diverse workforce is.

It is often regarded that businesses would perform “better” with a more ethnically-diverse or gender-diverse workforce. The McKinsey’s “Why diversity matters report”, states that companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median and companies in the top quartile of racial/ethnic diversity were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry median. However, what is the parallel and correlation that drives this rise in performance and therefore increase in revenue?

It can also be regarded that, the principal force behind increased performance in an organisation which demonstrate a diverse workforce; is that a diverse workforce allows an organisation a window of attracting and retaining top talent around the world. The top performers in any discipline, will be across different ethnicities, nationalities, disabilities, genders, religions, races etc…

Therefore, in my opinion, in order to attract and retain top talent, it is pivotal to foster and cultivate an environment that is appealing and one which existing and potential employees are able to thrive in. Whether this be in the form of diversity groups or whether this be interest-focussed groups – it is important to create a working culture which is inclusive(including allies) yet retain differences in opinion to challenge homogeneity.

2015 statistics illustrate that only 17% of the UK Tech sector include women. The topic of increasing this % was raised during my visit to Web Summit 2018, Lisbon. The tech sector needs to be invested in boosting its appeal to all genders – and this is one of the main strategies for the industry moving forward in order to create a larger talent pool in one that is scarce.

Paying-back one’s diversity debt is becoming a pivotal topic in the industry. Tech organisations are looking to “pay back” their diversity debt by adjusting the imbalances in their current workforce by advocates enforcing at least one woman be in their shortlist. This challenge becomes increasingly high when balancing hiring targets in order to deliver to projects and therefore this is not a sustainable or a very successful way of hiring. No organisation should hire specific people just to fill a diversity quota. The right candidates should be chosen for the right job – irrespective of their race, gender, ethnicity etc..

So, what more can be done to attract more women into tech?

Education! It all starts here I think. Here are a few fun facts from Tech City UK in a survey: 45% of females said they lack skills in tech, 38% lack knowledge about technology and 24% of women said technology was not for people like them. Creating awareness on the rise of technology and it’s uses should be spoken about widely at schools and educational fairs. Extra-curricular coding classes should be provided as an afterschool activity, tech businesses as a part of their Corporate Responsibility could be visiting schools to explain various roles in technology and product. This will not only (hopefully) attract women but more individuals to look at the industry as a potential career path. Highlighting success stories and PR & marketing around high-achieving “diverse” tech-savvy individuals would also assist in the “education piece”. Creating academic work-experience or shadowing schemes could strengthen awareness and encourage more to pursue a career in tech.

Equal Benefits! Being treated equally and fairly is important to everyone. It is a crucial time in tech businesses to review their work policies and benefits.

Having spoken to many women engineers, one of the things that was said to be looked at when moving jobs was the maternity, paternity and adoption policies; career ladders and learning and development. Creating or amending a businesses’ policies to make it more rewarding to retain talent is a great way to attract a more diverse workforce and to initiate inclusivity for all. I also believe it to be a good time to attempt to create some equilibrium in both policies. Having equal benefits and reward, could also correlate to a higher retention rate or women in tech who are returning to work, and therefore offering collaboration and support to women who are returning to work, could appeal to other women open to new work opportunities.

The Advert! It’s about how you say it. Whilst hiring, talent advocates and hiring managers write up adverts to suit the role they are looking to recruit. It is pivotal that organisations choose semantics and language that is all-encompassing and all-inclusive. It is also important to be critical with hiring teams to really dig deep in what is needed to fulfil the daily duties of the role and what is a “nice to have” for the role. Studies show that if women believe they do not have a 90% match with the job description/advert – they will not apply. Conversely, men who believe they meet half the roles’ criteria – would simply put; give it a go.

Promotions & Progression! The sense of achievement, reward and fulfilment is key for any individual (I believe!). Offering women an opportunity to move up career ladders is pivotal in attracting more women into the workspace. Knowing that an organisation has senior figures that could be role models or play the role of a mentor is a place to aspire to work. The sense of promotion and progression, provides faith in a new employer and would encourage potential employees to engage with employer brands.

Whilst it is important to have diversity, as mentioned before – the hiring process should be geared and tailored towards finding the right person for the right job, irrespective of their race, gender, ethnicity etc…

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