10 Transformative Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Women in Tech
Only one in four technology workers is a woman. Yet, most Americans view technology jobs as attractive. Compared to other industries, jobs in tech typically offer higher pay, greater flexibility, and are well-respected. While there is a wide range of explanations for the limited diversity in tech, one of the most significant causes of women’s underrepresentation in the industry is gender bias in IT hiring.
Half of women in tech say their success at work has been hindered by their gender, especially in workplaces where the majority of employees are men. Even when the scales are balanced and companies recruit a more diverse workforce, more women than men leave tech roles before they reach leadership positions.
So, how can you as a leader in tech combat these statistics? While there’s not one simple solution, there are many research-backed strategies that will help your business build an inclusive workforce. We’ve analyzed the data and our conversations with industry leaders to bring you our top 10 ways to recruit and retain talented, experienced women in technology.
5 Ways to Better Recruit Women in Tech
- Audit your job descriptions. Research shows men and women often interpret job descriptions differently, with women being more likely to avoid applying for a job if they don’t meet all the listed requirements. Knowing this, consider performing an audit on your job descriptions, paring them down to only include the truly necessary requirements. In these situations, recruiters can act as your first line of defense, especially if they’re seeing a disproportional number of men applying to certain jobs.
- Avoid applicant screening bias. Recruiters are 13% less likely to click on a woman’s candidate profile on LinkedIn when she shows up in search. This level of unconscious bias can make it difficult to hire a diverse workforce, even when you have the best intentions. If your recruiting ream is struggling with this issue, consider launching a blind hiring process or relying less on resumes altogether, basing your opinions on skills evaluations instead.
- Measure DE&I statistics in hiring. Go beyond your typical hiring funnel KPIs and establish quantifiable diversity markers for each stage in the process. From there, regularly assess your progress (or lack thereof) towards reaching those goals. You’ll then be able to make conclusions related to gender bias in your hiring. For example, if you see an increase in woman candidate falloff after an interview, analyze your interview questions for bias.
- Involve women with IT expertise in the hiring process. Women who find themselves being “Onlys” (the only person of their gender in the room) face additional challenges in the workplace. That’s why it’s critical you include STEM-trained women on your hiring team, preferably those from a team your candidate may work with in the future. When a woman candidate feels represented from the get-go, she’ll be less likely to feel like an “Only” and more like someone who could grow in your organization.
- Promote programs that support women in tech. Support women of all ages in technology—and increase your workplace’s attractiveness simultaneously—through career development programs. Whether mentorship programs, upskilling initiatives similar to those of Google and Microsoft, or partnerships with nonprofit institutions like Girls Who Code or Women in Technology International, these programs are unique differentiators that attract top tech talent and eventually create role models for new entry level talent (or even the future of the workforce).
Recruiting is only half the battle. How do you support women in your workplace for years to come once you’ve hired them? Retaining women in technology requires your entire organization’s commitment to a DE&I strategy that cultivates an inclusive IT culture. Consider baking our top 5 retention practices into your strategy.
5 Ways to Better Retain Women in Tech
- Don’t make a business case for diversity. By justifying your commitment to diversity solely on the grounds that it benefits your bottom line, you send a signal to underrepresented employee groups that they are simply a means to an end. Yes, talking about the impact of diversity on profitability works for the Board or C-Suite, but workers want to know there’s more to your culture than profit margins and budgetary concerns. Instead, if you have to justify your DE&I commitment at all, do so through a fairness case based on moral grounds. Otherwise, treat DE&I the same way you do other core values— don’t leave it up for discussion.
- Hold leaders accountable. In addition to measuring internal DE&I statistics in hiring, gather diversity-related data on salary, promotions, and general office wellbeing. Use this data to set goals and track progress. Hold yourself and other leaders in your organization accountable for meeting these goals as you continuously learn what diversity means to your team as whole.
- Include, don’t just diversify. DE&I efforts aren’t finished after your chosen candidate accepts your job offer. Actively work to ensure everyone in your workplace feels seen, heard, and valued. Gather employee feedback as often as possible and use that information to make new goals and measure progress.
- Provide development opportunities. In the same way development programs can attract candidates to your organization, they also promote retention. By making professional development accessible to everyone in your organization, you promote engagement and encourage employees to own their careers with your company for the long term.
- Walk the talk. Your DE&I initiatives should be more than extracurriculars—they should be an integral, critical part of your business objectives. The way you speak about inclusivity is important of course, but showing your commitment through your mentorship of women employees, sponsorship of programs that directly empower women in tech, and partnership with outside vendors that share similar objectives carries more weight. The combination of beliefs, words, and actions is what will allow you to reach your DE&I goals.
Inclusivity in Tech Starts with You
Increasing women’s representation and retention in the tech industry ultimately relies on leaders giving the same level of commitment and focus to the issue as they would any other workplace initiative. Promoting inclusion is more than checking off a box; a diverse workforce will ultimately stimulate innovation and drive business success. In fact, gender-diverse companies are 48% more likely to outperform companies that lack gender diversity. So, challenge your traditional approach to recruiting and assess your current talent models and practices. By taking steps toward cultivating a more diverse and inclusive workforce, you’re providing women at all levels a pathway for success in technology.