Women in Engineering Leadership: Steps for Building Inclusive and Gender Balanced Work Environments
Just 13 percent of licensed engineers in Canada are women. What can we do to address this huge gender disparity?
This past April, VanHack hosted a Women in Tech Hiring Event (April 5-7), that focused on providing job and growth opportunities for women in tech.
In a virtual Fireside Chat, Alana Frome, Co-Founder & CTO at HiMama, Lisa House, Director of Engineering at Skywatch and Katya Shetyn, Co-Founder at BioRender spoke about their pathways into tech leadership, entrepreneurship and management.
The panelists deep dived into the challenges of working in technical positions in a male dominated industry, and shared tips for women in tech looking to move into senior management and leadership positions.
Takeaway 1: Start from the top - Leadership needs to take ownership
In a world where 40 percent of women who start their careers in engineering eventually leave or don’t finish their studies, we need to seek ways to address the issue and help women who want to stay in engineering succeed.
The reality is that it’s not all on recruitment to build a diverse funnel.
For leadership, it’s about accepting taking a hard look in the mirror and acknowledging that blind spots and biases exist. And determine what the collective team, starting with leadership, can do about it. Instead of putting the responsibility on HR, or bringing in an expert on DEI—leadership should be open to listening to other people’s perspectives and be willing to make changes.
Another initiative leadership can take is setting a literal example of having women represented across the leadership team.
It’s empowering and helpful to see people like yourselves represented, especially on your organization’s leadership teams. It allows women to look up to female leaders and mentors, and see the path that they themselves are capable of taking as well.
Takeaway 2: Build processes and programs to create safe places for growth
Organizations can take a variety of steps to create safe spaces for women in tech to grow. Starting from the top, conduct management training and review communication processes to ensure everyone has the chance and space to voice concerns.
On a macro level, make it clear to your team what success looks like, and ensure that everyone is supported to become successful. Set up guidelines in aiding engagement and communication, such as compassionate code review guidelines.
A key priority is to help your team members feel heard. Having managers that care about their team members—listening to their visions, what they want to achieve and how they want to grow is essential to retaining talent.
Acknowledge that not everyone is comfortable with providing feedback—make sure they are heard by setting up various channels for them to submit feedback. One-on-ones, peer & 360 degree reviews, performance reviews or surveys are just a few options.
Fostering an environment where people feel safe to share is important as well. Instill a no-blame culture, and when there are fallbacks, focus on correcting processes instead of people.
Takeaway 3: Champion yourself and other women in Tech
How can women in tech build their careers and advance into leadership roles?
An important way to grow is to champion yourself in striving for opportunities. It’s key to speak up and put yourself out there—because frankly, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
It’s tempting and easy to self-screen yourself out of opportunities like job interviews, projects or speaking at a conference—before you even had a chance to be assessed by the other party. Take the risk whenever you can and reap the rewards of personal and professional growth. The worst that could happen is hearing no.
A way to tackle the common impostor syndrome for women moving into leadership is to acknowledge that it’s okay to not excel at everything—instead, you can focus on the things you do well at, and hire people who can complement your skills and expertise.
Takeaway 4: Build diversity from top-down
Building diverse and gender-balanced teams start from the top of hiring funnels.
Look for funnels where you can expand your diversity reach—the key is starting upstream. VanHack, a recruitment platform that specializes in helping companies source top global tech talent, offers more diversity in their candidate pools compared to job sites. Curating a more diverse funnel with the help from partners like VanHack helps to build more diverse teams.
Secondly, review your hiring process and touchpoints. Conduct an analysis of your website—what do candidates see from your messaging? Does it encourage them to apply? Are they seeing underrepresented groups in your team photos? There should also be balanced representation across hiring and interviewing teams to achieve unbiased hiring decisions.
Re-evaluate your company’s mission statement—is it crafted with a diversity perspective?
Be cautious and avoid token diversity hires or labelling a job as specifically for “women”. This puts unfair expectations on the person and leads to poor retention rates. Instead, hire multiple women, so that there are other female counterparts to support and advocate for each other.
Start building your diverse team today
Looking to hire developers for your tech team? VanHack helps expand limited and competitive candidate pools to a growing, diverse global community of 350,000+ software engineers. We do the hard work of vetting their qualifications and experience, and shortlist candidates closely matching your technical requirements.
Whether you’re looking to relocate developers or adopt a remote-first working culture, VanHack can assist. Our experienced Global Mobility team takes care of all the immigration and visa application paperwork for relocation hires. We also offer partner solutions that cover foreign compliance and payroll services for remote employees.
VanHack also hosts virtual hiring events where you can meet and speed interview dozens of software developers in skill-focused sessions. See our next hiring event here.
Get started today and discover how we can help you hire quality software developers, streamline your hiring process and diversify your team.
Watch the full session replay: