The topic of women in technology and engineering stirs up a lot of debate -- even in India. Recently, the Economic Times published an article under the headline Gender diversity in Indian unicorns leaves much to be desired. “The lack of women in tech roles at domestic startups is glaring,” the article observed.
About two years ago, Tracy Chou (engineer at Pinterest) published a post questioning the lack of gender diversity at tech companies, and had crowdsourced data showing that the average composition of women in technology in any Silicon Valley tech startup hovers between 10-12%.
Admittedly, the numbers aren’t very different with us at Belong either. Women constitute a total of 14% of our growing team. But we are trying to change that.
For a recruiter who is trying to bring more female developers into the team, or in other words increase gender diversity, the task is pretty tough. Not only are there relatively far fewer girls taking up computer science at the college level, but many choose not to remain in the field. So what can a recruiter do to attract more women?
Invest in Women’s Tech Communities
Whenever the issue of diversity comes into the picture, everybody talks about the “pipeline” problem, stating that there just aren’t enough women to begin with. But as a company, are you doing everything you can to reach the widest pool of candidates? There are several women tech groups such as systers_org, pyladies, railsgirls whose local chapters actively organize events. Keep a track of their activities and see if you could help organise one on your premises. Organise conferences or meetups with women speakers. Be sincere and convince them why they should speak at your meetup.
Women-only tech events also drive large participation from women in all fields of tech. See if you can organise one or be an active participant in one.
Overcome Unconscious Bias in Your Hiring
Did you know that using phrases like "ninja, hacker, or fast-paced environment" in your job descriptions could result in disproportionately more male applicants, and phrases like “dedicated, collaborative” attract female applicants without repelling male applicants?
Did you know that using phrases like "ninja, hacker, or fast-paced environment" in your job descriptions could result in disproportionately more male applicants?
A growing body of research today shows that involuntary biases like these negatively impact decision-making in every area of business. The implications of such biases are particularly severe for HR teams that are actively tasked with building more diverse, inclusive and stronger teams. So what can HR teams do to nip such biases in the bud?
- Examine language in your job descriptions. As we noted earlier, certain phrases like “action-oriented” or “results-driven” are vague descriptions of people we have in mind, rather than outcomes we expect from a role. Here’s a nifty app that lets you check if your job ad is subtly gender-coded.
- Give the same interview to everyone instead of changing it based on your assumptions of the interviewee.
- Blind interviews wherever possible. Ask people to review assignments or test code without knowing who wrote it.
- Organize bias training for your hiring team members. Several companies like Google and Facebook have made their bias training courses public that you could leverage.
Provide Role Models
Women applying to your company need to see that they have a credible career path. But if your entire leadership team is dominated by men, that’s unlikely to happen and will simply make any woman think twice before applying.
Make sure, therefore, to recruit women into leadership positions and enable an environment that allows anyone -- irrespective of their background or gender -- to grow into leadership roles. If you have women leaders, ensure they are accessible and visible. Encourage them to represent the team or the company at industry forums, events and on your website. Seeing a woman at the helm will do more to instil confidence in your prospective female applicants than anything else.
Seeing a woman at the helm will do more to instil confidence in your prospective female applicants than anything else.
Make Flexible Work Truly a Part of Your Culture
Despite the progress our society is making towards equality and inclusion, it’s usually women who end up juggling career, children and home responsibilities. Fast-paced work environments that demand long hours hardly make this possible.
Remote working, flexible schedules, job sharing should therefore truly become a part of your culture. Allow your employees to decide how and from where they work as long as they are showing results.
Beware of the Brogrammer Culture
Nothing repels women from a tech team more than an inherent brogrammer culture. In a culture that glorifies the beer-drinking, video game-playing, boy nerd, being a girl makes you stand out of the pack in ways that can be very discomforting. Tech companies should therefore include women on teams that are influencing its culture.
While not every girl might dislike personalized hoodies or Counter Strike, it’s important to expand your company’s activities beyond the homogenous scope of dorm-room traditions.
(And whatever you do, do not be that company that asks prospective applicants if they want to “bro down and crush some code”!).
In an era when code is touching every aspect of our life, more people thinking and solving problems differently can benefit us all.
Diversity of thought is good for business! - Gayle Laakmann McDowell