4 tips for attracting and hiring women in tech
VanHack presents its key takeaways from Breaking the Bias: Hiring and Attracting Women in Tech.
Whether in tech leadership, entrepreneurship, talent acquisition or engineering, women are disproportionately underrepresented in the tech sector.
VanHack hosted a virtual panel discussion called Breaking the Bias: Hiring and Attracting Women in Tech, a conversation featuring a range of perspectives from tech business leaders, solopreneurs, talent recruitment, and tech talent.
Catherine Chan – Founder @ FitIn
Leah Carr – CEO @ tilr
Sarah Maledy – Talent Acquisition Team Lead @ Thinkific
Kat Connolly – Fullstack Developer @ Checkfront
Meghan Watchorn – Head of Growth @ VanHack (Moderator)
The conversation kicked off with each panelist sharing a bias or challenge experienced working in the tech space. Stories and lived experiences included the difficulty around raising funding, being second-guessed as an individual working in STEM, or their skills and approach being put into question.
Despite the panel’s range of backgrounds, exclusion and dismissal were the common themes threading these experiences together.
The 45-minute discussion was rich in insights and anecdotes, along with actionable next steps for the tech sector to start attracting more women in tech.
Here are 4 key ways to start building more inclusive and diverse teams, and attract and hire more women in tech:
✅ Gender balance at all levels of the company
Reaching gender parity, and creating a balanced workforce in a male-dominated industry like tech may sound like a pipe dream.
But it doesn’t have to be. In reality, working towards gender parity is a valid business case in the need for employers to pay closer consideration.
Having a gender-balanced team is one of the many indicators of a healthy organization. Studies have shown diverse teams with at least a 50/50 gender balance outperform homogenous ones, delivering more innovative products and driving better business outcomes.
👉 On applying for tech roles: While unfortunate, it's often the case for the lone female candidate applying for a technical role to experience underrepresentation in the talent pool and selection process.
When moving further into the interview stages, the panel discussed scenarios in which candidates would be talked AT by male interviewers, leaving no room to chime or opportunity to ask about their technical skills and fit for the role.
Tokenization and performative progressiveness have surfaced in these interview discussions and can prove challenging to navigate.
👉 On women in leadership: At the leadership level, women are also underrepresented here, making up only 24% of senior leadership in an IDC study in 2019.
Recognizing this, organizations are looking toward sourcing and bringing C-Suite and Director level talent into their engineering and infrastructure teams, roles that have traditionally been held by men.
The panel also shared their experiences of working with a female manager or team lead, which overall have been positive and resulted in increased chances of getting recognition for their work and being advocated for promotion and pay raise opportunities.
👉 On funding and entrepreneurship: Women-led startups only receive 2% or less in VC funding and lack the funds to hire more women developers in their business. In funding conversations, business plans are often second-guessed and questioned as to how it would survive versus how it would thrive.
✅ Setting and Sticking to DEI&B Goals
DEI&B goals should be set with involvement from the full team. Providing your team with a seat at the table to have their voices heard will inform your DEI&B strategy and ensure it’s inclusive of all levels of the organization. Goals should be frequently assessed and re-measured to gauge how the organization is stacking up against the current state of diversity.
👉 On talent sourcing: Diverse and inclusive hiring regular talent attraction and outreach, as opposed to relying on generic inbound applications.
👉 On hiring: Rather than listing roles that need to be filled by a minority hire, opt for injecting women into the hiring pipeline early, by placing them at the top of the funnel via sourcing and direct outreach efforts.
👉 On tokenism: As companies are moving towards inclusive hiring practices, it is crucial to differentiate between authentically living out DEI&B values versus making token or diversity hires.
To avoid ‘tokenization’ and the stress and self-doubt caused for candidates, strike a balance between hiring for diversity while factoring in merit and skillset.
👉 On policy implementation: Setting and having clear goals and pledges is only the first step of the journey. The real work comes in the implementation.
Employers should be prepared to be asked about how they’re acting on DEI&B policies and the steps taken to actively integrate this into the company culture.
✅ Diverse Interview Panels & Non-Gendered Job Descriptions
Language matters. Unconscious bias can be found in both written and verbal communication throughout the hiring process.
💡 One approach to mitigate this? Injecting inclusivity in your job descriptions and ensuring your hiring teams are also diverse.
Gender-coded language can alienate a wide range of candidates from applying. When crafting job descriptions, running your drafts through gender decoders (Gender Decoder, Your D+I Job Advert Gender Decoder) can be helpful in ensuring your job descriptions are written for inclusivity, and at the same time removing your own bias.
A few additional steps to remove bias in hiring:
✔️ remove gender and location from the resumes
✔️ strip descriptions down to skills
✔️ detach names from technical challenges
👉 On team alignment: Having a second team member on the interview panel taking their own notes can be helpful in minimizing bias in the process.
👉 On hiring: Sync with your hiring team to identify your absolute must-haves and what’s trainable or coachable so you don’t pass up on a brilliant hire with the potential to learn and grow with your company.
✅ Flexible Culture, Wellness and Professional Development Programs
Motherhood bias is a stark reality. Traditionally the primary caregivers, women, often shoulder the responsibility of family care in addition to juggling their careers. This has been further exacerbated by the pandemic with the challenge of doing more at home while appearing highly visible and engaged on calls.
All this (and more!) contributes to women leaving their tech roles at a 45% higher rate than men.
👉 On Flexible Hours: Flexibility is one important step for closing the gender gap and promoting work-life balance. It enables working mothers and caregivers to complete the remote workday, while meeting their at-home responsibilities ranging from running errands, picking up kids from school, attending appointments or tending to sick family members.
Additional perks such as parental leave top-ups, comprehensive medical coverage, wellness programs have also been growing in popularity amongst the workforce looking to balance and enhance their professional and personal lives.
👉 On Professional Development Programs and Upskilling: Incorporating growth perks and benefits such as educational stipends, career coaching and mentorship programs are also valuable in not only attracting talent but ensuring that your team has all the resources they need to succeed in the role, level up and grow with your company.
Tune in to the full conversation below:
Start Attracting Women Tech Talent: Women in Tech Hiring Event
VanHack is committed to helping tech employers reach their DEI&B goals, and work towards building diverse and inclusive tech teams.
The upcoming Women in Tech Hiring Event on April 5-7, 2022 is a 3-day hiring event for tech employers to meet and hire women developers. Register now to reserve your spot.
We’re also excited to have a Fireside Chat on April 5 at 8 a.m. PDT, featuring our guest panelists:
Katya Shteyn, Co-Founder & CTO @ BioRender
Lisa House, Director of Engineering @ SkyWatch
Alana Frome, Co-Founder & CTO @ HiMama
Register here to attend just the Fireside Chat session, or stay for the event to meet and hire qualified female developers to add to your tech teams!