The gap between the number of women versus men in the technology industry has proven stubbornly difficult to close. Endless articles, talks, blog posts, lectures, seminars offer admonishment, advice and well-meaning instructions on how to hire more women and yet, very little of this advice has proven to be effective.
How has this happened? After all, we want to hire the best and brightest minds, regardless of who they belong to. That's what's keeps our businesses moving forward, innovating and staying ahead of our competition.
Nobody sets out to discourage women in tech, and yet on average, girls who are interested in technology are still less likely than boys to follow it through to a career.
To encourage more of those smart female brains and skills onto a technology career path, you have to recognize what’s truly stopping them from taking those steps themselves. Only then will you be in a position to make the changes that will tip the odds in your favor of attracting the kind of female tech talent you're looking to hire.
There are 3 reasons girls don't pursue tech careers... and they're not what you've been told.
- Limited role models - you have to see it, to be it. It's tough for anybody to visualize a career in an area where it seems like there are only a few others like us. Few believed that it was possible to climb Mt Everest until the day when mountaineers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay proved that it could be done. In the years since, climbing Everest became so popular that overcrowding was a serious problem. The more female role models there are in tech, the more likely it is that girls will want to follow in our footsteps.
- Women tend to believe they need to tick all the boxes to be eligible. Job descriptions typically contain a list of requirements and attributes that the successful applicant must demonstrate. As any astute recruiter will tell you, women are more likely (on average) to read those requirements and not follow through, because they don't meet all of them. Men are more likely to apply knowing they don't meet every requirement. That means the way we word our job advertisements is inadvertently reducing our candidate pool. If we list 10 requirements, and a woman who meets 8 of them doesn't apply, while a man who meets 5 of them does, we're actually also reducing the level of talent we have to choose from. Distinguishing between "must haves" and "nice to haves" in our job descriptions gives us a wider candidate pool to select from, by making it more likely that very capable women will apply.
- Nobody wants to be the "lonely, only female". In areas of tech such as development, where the male / female ratio is particularly skewed, it's even harder to hire great female talent. It can be daunting to be the only woman in a big group of men, no matter how good you are at your job, and especially if you're young. Put a woman in a situation like that and the odds of her deciding on a different path, or not staying for very long, are increased regardless of how well suited she is for the role. Adding another woman to the mix changes the environment completely, so if that's your situation, consider hiring 2 women at the same time, or at least creating a situation where your new hire has another female around.
These points were first delivered by Panzura CEO Jill Stelfox and Judy Kopa, at Women in Technology Summit in February 2021.
10 tips for crafting highly effective job descriptions
It's lonely being a female engineer - here's how we fix it
A male perspective on women in technology
How changing one word in job descriptions can lead to more diverse candidates
How to hire women in tech - the ultimate guide
Men as allies: engaging men to advance women in the workplace