Silicon Valley is home to a number of the world's most prominent high-tech corporations, one-third of all US venture capital investments, and thousands of startups. And yet, women within the tech sector in Silicon Valley make up as little as 11 percent of the region’s executive roles and a mere 20 percent of software development roles. Although a small, concentrated sample size, the lack of gender diversity throughout the tech sector is widespread across the globe.
The gap can and should be bridged. HR, talent acquisition and recruitment teams can play an integral role in overcoming this challenge. Having been ingrained in the field of HR and talent acquisition for a number of years, now in the role of tech recruitment consultant, I believe wholeheartedly that we can provide our client partners with strategic consultation around the importance of not only recruiting and retaining more women in tech leadership roles, but as a means to help companies pursue diverse, truly inclusive and equality-driven cultures.
It’s important to begin by evaluating your current state – not just specific to gender equality, but also veteran recruitment, cultural diversity, generational demographics and the recruitment of people with disabilities. Specific to the recruitment of women in tech and tech leadership roles, let the following serve as a roadmap:
1. Uncover Career Aspirations
The initial steps toward building a diverse recruitment and retention strategy includes understanding the role organizational leaders play in setting the stage for change in equality and empowerment, then understanding the demands and desires of the talent your organization seeks. Second, your recruitment teams must understand the state of the industry – this provides a more clear picture of the employment value of women in technology and makes a world of difference in attracting, recruiting, retaining and empowering women within their roles.
According to WilsonHCG’s Libby Herrmann, Client Relationship Manager, when asked how can recruitment teams can attract more women to tech roles: “Start by diversifying and growing the networks you actively take part in – to include those that have a widespread female population. From here, ensure you are evangelizing the opportunities and the organization’s desire to diversify the workforce by hiring strong female candidates. Ensure they are aware of their value to an organization, the culture of the company, their growth potential and the positive implications of making a career change, among other reinforcements.
Internally, hiring managers need to be conscious of diversifying their candidate slate and fostering an inclusive environment. Organizational culture, including its reputation built by the hiring manager and existing team, is just as much an attractor as any effort a recruiter could put forth in outbound strategy.”
As an extension of Libby’s sentiments, organizations need to take the time to gain true insight into the different career aspirations, working styles, and personal goals between men and women. In some instances, these may very well align. But in my experience in the tech sector, I’ve found that many women find travel time, location, work flexibility and an inclusive work environment to be essential factors when selecting a job that is the right fit for them.
True understanding starts with listening. As recruiters – despite the exceptional rise of talent technologies bringing efficiency and automation to the world of talent acquisition – the best of us still focus on building personal, 1:1 relationships. Whether in recruitment or overseeing talent acquisition teams, you can begin to understand what women value in employment during initial conversations, well before the interview stage; from here, consult with hiring managers and hone potential offers and and role requirements.
Leading Fortune 500 employment brands (and revenue generators) are recruiting the person, not the job. They’re building job descriptions and outreach efforts around the character they envision rather than simply focusing on the resume.
2. Gather Data
When consulting with a technology client, I need to gather data to back up my case for one direction over another and determine any gaps in the current recruitment process. You can do this by reviewing recruitment ratios by gender, as well as analyzing diversity statistics and the sourcing tools chosen for recruitment. Recruiter and hiring manager workloads can be overwhelming! As such, we often forget simple sourcing strategies such as recruiting from technical university alumni groups, women’s technology groups and forums on websites such as LinkedIn.
As an example, if in your exploration of the numbers you find the recruitment ratio or gender split to be equal, you might glean that the length or complexity or timeliness of the recruitment process to be to blame for the low number of females hired. After data evaluation, begin tweaking the recruitment process where needed – such as attending an IT career fair or webinars specifically for women in the technology field. Small tweaks, though “small”, can lay the groundwork for embedded change that infiltrates all aspects of talent acquisition.
3. Know the Marketplace, Competitors’ Strategies
As an acquisition specialist or talent leader, are you reaching the maximum number of qualified female tech candidates in the current marketplace? We can uncover the answer to this question by researching and gaining clarity around the markets in which we recruit, as well as what our competitors are doing to attract women in an industry like technology. This information can come directly from candidates, company websites or diversity reports – which are sometimes released by IT companies. That said, 400 companies from the Fortune 500 list “share no data about the gender or ethnicity of their employees.”
However you can glean this information, it’s integral to support our knowledge of what the marketplace currently looks like and what trends we or the companies we work for can/should adopt into the recruitment process. This insight can help you in positioning your current role as a beneficial change for the candidate’s career, how you present various job descriptions, and what content would be best to provide during initial conversations and throughout the hiring process.
4. Know (and Openly Discuss) Your Employment Brand
Initial discussion of employment brand and culture is vital to candidates. Often, employers with rigid working practices are not preferred by some professional women who have chosen to raise a family. Conversely, companies with purely in-office working styles and structured hours may very well be preferable for other women. Ultimately, as recruiters and consultants, we need to understand our organizations’ employment brands like the backs of our hands so that we can accurately, honestly share with candidates what we have to offer them personally, professionally, in the short term and over the course of their careers.
We can often glean employment brand information from company files and our own experiences, but it’s important to gain deeper insight from hiring managers, human resource partners and colleagues (marketing included); this will help you hone how you present to female candidates what the organization has to offer in terms of employment brand, benefits, cultural perks and career paths.
5. Strategic Marketing, Precise Messaging
When marketing a position, candidates may be less likely to apply if they feel a demand to meet every requirement of a listed role description. This seemingly simple strategy can lead to losing exceptional female candidates. If we really want to close the gender gap, we need to show the respective audience just how diverse, creative and exciting the organization really is; further highlighting the need to partner with marketing (among other departments) and align with the greater employment brand to ensure recruitment teams are going to market with carefully written, accurate job descriptions, career pages, social media language, benefit documents, email communications, and so on.
6. Avoid Unconscious Bias
As Ms. Herrmann also states, unconscious bias is too often integrated with our thoughts and actions: “We need to continuously engage and educate our recruiters around the topic of unconscious bias. Specifically, building awareness and training recruitment team members around its inevitable presence in human nature. Repetition builds retention. Through creating awareness, recruiters will become more self-aware in ensuring they are objectively evaluating the talent pool.
We have all been raised differently and brought up with varying value systems and cultural beliefs; a recruitment climate that cultivates equal opportunity for all candidates should be part of our personal mission and value, as well as our employment brands."
There are many brilliant women leading the ways in which today’s organizations approach technology, software development, innovation and leadership. These women are redefining how we work hand-in-hand with today’s rapid technological advancements, economic changes and dissolving global boundaries. Regardless of your current state, change and continued growth hinges on one final important takeaway: start the conversation around diversity and inclusion, listen and learn from your people as well as the talent landscape and, however small, take action today.