Amanda Groves

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The tech industry has historically been notorious for its lack of gender diversity. And while things are definitely changing for the better, the lack of women in tech roles is definitely still an issue. In fact, as recently as 2015, women made up just 25 percent of computer-related occupations. Why does that matter? Because studies have shown that gender-diverse companies outperform others by 15 percent. Not only that, companies with more diverse teams have a 22 percent lower turnover rate and have an easier time recruiting.

The bottom line is that tech companies need to hire more women. The question is how. In this post, we’ll outline four steps to follow as you build a diverse workforce:

  1. Review your job postings to eliminate gender bias

Whether you realize it or not, many job postings have gender-specific wording that attracts male candidates while repelling females. Male-oriented titles, phrasing, and adjectives can turn qualified women off from applying for a role.

For example, instead of using words like “ninja,” “rockstar,” and “superhero,” use neutral job descriptors like “developer,” “project leader,” or “engineer.” And, when you’re describing your ideal candidate, never use “he.” Women will find it hard to imagine themselves in the role, especially if your company already appears to assume that the right hire is a man.

So-called gendered language can have a real impact on who applies for roles. Some words commonly used in job ads are typically associated with male traits (like drive and analyze) while others are typically more associated with female ones (like collaborate and support). You want to be as neutral as possible and avoid aggressive and off-putting terms. For instance, don’t talk about “smashing it out of the park,” but rather “achieving targets.”

There are a couple of helpful tools such as Textio and Gender Decoder that you can use to help identify and eliminate any gender unconscious bias in your job postings.

  1. Review the message your company is sending

One of the first places people go to when they see your job posting is to your website and, if you have one, your careers page. What message does your site or your careers page convey? Are your images all of men at work? Do you have a diversity policy and mission statement front and center? Do you think that the women who see it can imagine working there? Think about including employee profiles that highlight women, their contributions, career progression, and personal experiences working with your organization. If women get the impression you’re not a progressive and diverse organization, they may never apply.

  1. Involve women in the interview process

Here too, you want to prevent your recruiting process from coming across as male-centric. Involving women in the interview process — especially women who have been successful in your organization — can help relax female candidates and bring out the best in them. They will also be able to give candidates valuable insight into what it’s like working for your company as a female employee. Involving women in this process, even if you are recruiting for a team without any female members, shows that women are involved and valued in your organization, even if you are a male-dominated business.

  1. Expand your networks

There are many organizations and networks that support and champion women in tech. They have the knowledge of, and access to, some of the best talent in the tech world. They also understand the barriers women face and how to break them down. Establish relationships with these groups, attend networking events, and consider sponsoring internships. Be present at conferences and special events, and make it known that you are committed to employing and nurturing more women in the industry.

What’s best for women is often best for business

It’s clear that hiring more women, especially in male-dense industries like tech, is good for business. It just takes a bit of thinking outside the box and focusing your efforts on attracting top female talent. Trust us, your organization’s bottom line will thank you.

What tactics have you used to recruit top female talent in your organization?

  • Andraya Lund

    This is great info! My only call out is that I find it offensive that in the gender decorder site provided has “analysis” as a masculine coded word. To me, this implies women aren’t capable of analysis – which we all know is completely and utterly false as evident by this comment. If I’m hiring a business analyst who needs to provide analysis, why in the world would I change that word to “support”? Seems counterproductive to me.

    • Shannon Sloan

      Gender Decoder is problematic; the word list lacks nuance and logic. Use at your own discretion and mileage may vary, I guess. Even the writer of this piece sounded a bit put-off by the word lists. I suppose it’s more of an experiment in language and sociology, or perhaps a call to be more mindful of how we phrase things.

  • Shannon Sloan

    On the topic of job postings:
    We use words like rockstar to break up what is, essentially, boring, repetitive blocks of text–heck, they bore me and I WRITE them. I don’t hate it, but it’s already a minefield of legal subtext and large-font fine-print, while trying our darnedest to sound conversational.
    Job seekers, who have some idea of the position they’re looking for, will read basically, the same ad, dozens of times in an hour. Active, exciting words express enthusiasm, stand out and may be the first conveyance of corporate culture–and are apparently flagged as masculine. Neutralizing the tone of an ad, using firm rules about masculine and feminine, may neuter as intended, but without context, vibrance suffers. So, instead of focusing on neutrality, maybe the focus should shine on inclusivity–or just getting excited about the work. Geek-out about the work, right there in job posting; data-heads can give you the big picture from the numbers–or analysts can report back on metrics. The former may skew younger, but it’s a call to people who are passionate about their work, not because they’re the best, with tons of experience, but because they love it, which the data has shown makes a happier, more cooperative, productive workplace
    Yes, avoid using him or her; lament that English doesn’t have a common gender-neutral singular pronoun; tinker with one and them, rinse and repeat, but I really think it all comes back to mindset. We write for the candidate we picture and unless we are picturing a diverse workplace, our posts are going to skew toward one kind of candidate. We write better copy when we sincerely believe it, and I think many people, men and women, just aren’t there, yet.

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