As a startup tech consultant I still see many tech departments dominated by young men. Simply put we need more diversity in tech departments. For the main reason women can pursue their career goals and be happy and satisfied with their jobs. We no longer can deny them this. On top of that diverse departments make fewer bad decisions, tend not to groupthink and are more innovative — all of which leads to more business value.
When I talk to CEOs of tech companies about diversity, they all tell me that they want more diversity in their tech department. Almost immediately after this they tell me that they can’t hire women because the job market doesn’t support them. When I look deeper though, they don’t do a lot of things that would help them hire more women and make their tech more diverse.
So I made a small list to help you hire more women or start you on your trip for more diverse tech environments. This is about hiring, I’ll touch on how to keep women in a later article. Here we go.
1. Double down on employer branding
Diversity is the chance to shine as an employer and tap into new talent pools. Look at your employer branding initiatives and see how you can adapt them to reflect a more diverse culture. There should be no need to say this, but don’t fall into a trap, don’t lie or be unauthentic.
2. Talk at universities
Go to a university with a tech curriculum and give a talk about diversity, the why and how. This will strengthen women in tech and make male students question companies they apply to.
3. Support local women coding initiatives
I’m sure there is a local women coding initiative. Have you talked there? They often look for speakers. Besides, they often look for venues (offer company space) or support with marketing and spreading the word.
4. Look at your job ads
My guess is your job ads in tech are written – or cut and paste from older job ads – by young male developers for young male developers with a glance over by HR. Then you’re doing it wrong. This leads to the standard „we offer A-B-C and want D-E-F with newest shining technology“ job ads. Create more than one persona as a target audience of your ads. Beside the young man add at least a woman, a young father or mother and a 45+ year old developer. Whom can you also add? What would they like to read? What would them make apply for the job? What would drive conversion? Why stop at one ad? Marketing has many landing pages for different target audiences. Learn from them, add more job ads for your personas and do A/B testing. I’m confident you’ll receive more diverse applications. This doesn’t say female developers are less nerdy or less interested in tech, it says people are not one dimensional.
5. Set interviewee goals
Set a goal to your hiring managers and HR to at least have 20% (or more depending on your situation) of interviewees be women. Setting hiring goals will remove agency and feeling responsible from hiring managers, but setting interviewee goals will open their minds and lead to more diversity.
6. Ask the women in your tech department
Ask the women in your tech department refer more women to open jobs. You pay a referral bonus, don’t you? But many companies I talk to pay EUR 1.000 for a referral but 10.000 to 20.000 EUR to a head hunter. Pay your employees the same amount you would pay to an external recruiter, and referrals with excellent candidates will flood in guaranteed.
7. Have a woman in interviews
Do you have tech interviews with five men as interviewers? Then there is a high chance that you set the wrong environment and give the wrong signal to women in interviews. At least have one woman in your interviews, if not from tech (because you sadly don’t have any there – yet), chose from product management or someone else the applicant will work with in the future. If the women that work at your company in tech are too junior, give them a training. Make sure a women is involved or consulted in the decision making because people will always tend to hire people that are like themselves.
8. Double down on role models
Often there are not enough female tech managers to influence the hiring environment. This s a chicken and egg problem, because people are heavily influenced by role models. So double down on hiring or promoting women into tech leadership positions up to the board. More role models will inspire more women in your tech department to pursue a tech career.
9. Pay more for women
Pay more for women! What? Headhunters aka recruiters will get paid 20% — 30% of the yearly salary of the person they place. First tell them about your interviewee goals for women. Second pay them 5% more for female candidates. Knowing a lot of recruiters, this will incentivize them to look harder for women candidates plus increase demand with the side effect of making tech more attractive to women.
10. Fight efficiency
This sounds like anathema to many. Whenever I talk to CEOs as a consultant, their main point seems to be how to make their tech department more efficient. They have long backlogs, not enough developers and tech people costs are already the highest. So their pressure for more efficiency is understandable. More efficiency leads to more homogeneity and group think. This leads to less innovation, wrong decisions and the wrong incentives for hiring. Prioritize diversity over efficiency or you will be stuck with what you have.
11. Train women
There might be women inside your company that are good at coding, but don’t know and haven’t seen how satisfying it is to write code. I’ve held coding workshops at the companies I’ve worked for accounting, marketing, sales departments or the executives. Quite some of the female participants were open to go into technology for the fun and money.
These are only some actions you can take today to make tech departments more diverse.
Rise and shine!