The technology industry is growing, yet it still struggles with attracting and recruiting a diverse range of talent. This article explores some of the challenges blocking progress for women in particular and offers solutions that can be adopted industry-wide.
Tech has an insidious problem. Despite a UK-wide digital skills gap and increasing pressure to fill vacant roles, we are still struggling to attract and retain under-represented groups in our industry. Currently, 72% of large companies and 49% of small businesses are suffering tech skill gaps.
According to PWC’s 2018 Women in Tech report, only 27% of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of male students.
Additionally, only 3% of women say tech is their first choice, compared to 15% of male students.
But this lack of diversity isn’t just limited to gender. According to Tech Nation’s 2018 report, 40% of industry respondents felt that ethnic diversity was low and 33% perceived a lack of age diversity.
To secure our future growth and prosperity as an industry, we need to ensure we are tapping into the talent pool in its entirety, including historically marginalized groups.
Although it’s important to start by getting a diverse range of people through the door and into our organizations, this is no longer enough.
To truly change the homogeneity of tech, we need to nurture individuals as they build their careers, support events run by and for underrepresented groups, and ensure our professional environments are safe and welcoming for all.
Although this article predominantly focuses on women in technology, it must be strongly noted that inclusivity is not limited to gender.
The Tech Industry Needs to Challenge Stereotypes of Who Is Qualified for a STEM Career
According to PWC, women may not be considering technology careers because they aren’t often encouraged to consider careers in tech.
Many have blamed this on trends that emerge during early education; however, the popularity of core STEM subjects among high school girls in the UK is soaring.
Computing courses, for example, was taken by 48% more girls in 2018 than in 2017, according to the WISE campaign.
As someone with a degree in medieval history, who fell into technology by accident, I am a testament to the fact that interest in tech is not just found in STEM graduates.
With the rise in self-directed education and learn to code initiatives, thousands of people are learning technical skills in their own bedrooms using sites and tools such as YouTube, Stack Overflow, Code Academy and Code School.
It’s up to organizations looking to hire digital talent to proactively reach out to these individuals, help them understand the opportunities available and not just base hiring decisions on who has a computer science degree.
Limiting STEM careers to those with a computer science degree only perpetuates historical inequalities in the number of women choosing this subject. In fact, the number of women taking computer science has actually declined over the past two decades.
At Netsells, we proactively offer on the job training and mentoring to self-taught staff members.
Not only does this ensure that we can access a wider talent pool, but we can also snap up amazing people early on in their careers, help them develop their skills, and hopefully, retain them as loyal employees.
Businesses in Tech Need to Re-Evaluate Recruitment
There is strong evidence that how job advertisements are worded can attract candidates of certain genders while deterring others.
When analyzing thousands of job posts, researchers from Canada and the US found that job posts using more masculine wording led women to think they wouldn’t belong at the company. Male-coded ads might include terms such as “adventurous,” “self-sufficient,” and “decisive.”
Gendered wording of job advertisements strongly signals who belongs in your company and who does not. Luckily, there are a number of tools you can use to analyze your job postings to check the language, including Kat Matfield’s gender decoder, to ensure you create an inclusive recruiting environment to attract creative candidates.
Businesses Can Reach Diverse Applicant Pools by Actively Supporting Events and Communities
Alongside our internal drive to recruit talent of all backgrounds, it’s also important to support external initiatives that are seeking to open up the technology industry.
In 2018, Netsells signed PWC’s Tech She Can Charter along with over 80 other organizations. The Charter aims to tackle the root cause of the gender disparity in technology by inspiring and educating young girls and women to get into tech careers.
While working at a national level, we also want to encourage change in our own local community. Throughout the UK there is an increasing number of volunteer-led events which are helping women learn to code and understand more about our industry.
These events happen in cities all over the world. By getting involved, allowing staff to volunteer as mentors, providing space for meetings, or donating the event, you can make these events have an even bigger impact.
Start by simply reaching out and asking groups what they need to thrive.
Have a Zero Tolerance Policy for Harassment and Marginalization
Most conferences and events include a Code of Conduct (CoC), a document that clearly outlines the behaviors that are not tolerated and advises attendees on how to get help should someone violates these policies.
Some people may see this as overkill, however, CoCs are vital for creating safe and welcoming spaces for all.
For example, a few years ago, I attended a large tech conference with several colleagues. At the conference, I had a number of interactions with an individual that made myself and another female colleague feel extremely uncomfortable. Following the guidelines of the CoC, we notified the event organizers who dealt with the situation in an extremely empathetic and professional manner.
They actively demonstrated that the conference was “dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone.”
The explicit encouragement to speak up and subsequent response ensured we both felt welcome and safe in that particular community. I would not hesitate to attend the event again and would be happy to recommend it to other women.
Just having a CoC is not enough. You need to make sure there are clearly identified channels available through which individuals can report behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Events and workplaces need to be clear about which behaviors are unacceptable to create a safe work environment for not only women but everyone.
The Tech Industry Can Fill the Gender Gap in the Tech Industry Through Mindful Recruiting and Careful Workplace Policies
The tech industry can encourage more women to pursue technology careers by:
- Supporting initiatives that encourage girls and women to pursue STEM-related careers
- Not limiting recruiting to only those with computer science degrees
- Being mindful of how job announcements are worded
- Implementing policies that have a zero tolerance for harassment and marginalization
Businesses in the tech industry can benefit from hiring more diverse teams and not just in terms of gender. Diversity in the workplace allows for a wider range of perspectives and ideas that can contribute to businesses' growth.
If you're still unsure how your businesses can encourage more diversity in the workplace, consider contacting one of the top human resources companies for counseling.