When it comes to the UK tech industry, the balance still tilts in favour of guys. Young women are still under-represented in the uptake of digital qualifications and according to government research* only 17 per cent of women make up the tech workforce.
So why should companies care about hiring women? Creating an equal male/female workforce makes you more likely to create a stronger team. Bringing together different points of view, different personalities and life experiences, means that your team can be more creative and open to new ideas.
Below are a few tactics that employers and HR departments can use in order to attract and retain female tech talent.
Think about what your job advert says about your company’s culture. Promises of endless cold beer, pool tables and gaming consoles tend to appeal to very young, predominantly male candidates but could potentially put off women. Having a fun and friendly atmosphere is great but unless your company policies and training extend beyond that, you’re cutting out a significant portion of your potential employee base. Another thing to consider is the language used in the advert. Women are far less likely to consider themselves ‘expert’ even if they are far more skilled than their colleagues. Think about skills not technologies as women tend to avoid applying for a job unless they tick every requirement on the list and avoid words such as ‘expert’ or ‘top-notch’. For example, if you need a developer with knowledge of an obscure programming language, focus on developing an advert with the focus on finding a developer who is a quick learner and can pick up a new language quickly.
A diversity statement can help highlight your commitment to an equal employment opportunity workplace. Once you have developed it, use every channel to communicate it. Use your company website to illustrate how you have created a happy and diverse team, and include the programmes you have in place that make your company inclusive and use case studies of current employees to bring your statement to life.
Collaborate with universities and training centres and get your company’s name in front of young people. Find out if your local university’s technology department has a women’s society and consider sponsoring them or offering a prize for the best female student.
Providing internships to women who are enrolled in courses that could lead to a career in your field are also a great way to engage with young female talent. If they have a good experience when they’re working for you as students there’s a good chance that they’ll come back after they graduate, and that they’ll also tell others about it.
Women often hesitate to apply for new specialist roles, not due to lack of skill, but due to lack of confidence so they are more likely to be apply for a role in a company that focuses on developing its staff through ongoing training.
Mentoring can also play an important part in developing female staff. Women often feel uncertain about their career future in a male-dominated industry so providing formal and can help them feel supported and show them that you’re investing into them.
As a minority in a male-dominated company female employees can be vulnerable to bullying and harassment. Ensure your workplace culture is free of bullying by having a clear anti-bullying policy in place which also prevents passive harassment such as sexist language and jokes. You also need to be aware of the employees’ behaviours and encourage them to report any incidents. Any reports need to be taken seriously and dealt with specific actions in order to ensure the victim feels safe and is being heard.
In many countries in the tech industry, women are paid significantly less than men for doing the same job. Providing equal pay ensures that women are being treated fairly and don’t feel the need to seek for higher paid roles in a different company thus improving employee retention. Evaluate salaries for different roles on an ongoing basis to identify any discrepancies. Be transparent when it comes to promotions and pay increases by evaluating employee performance and understanding that men and women communicate differently, and women are more likely to be modest when stating their achievements.
Listen to your employees
And last but definitely not least, ask for your employees’ feedback and listen to their needs. Consulting your staff regularly, whether that’s through formal surveys and panels or informal discussions, will help you understand what changes need to be made and how to implement them.
Ashleigh Auld is the Head of Channel Marketing at Starleaf, a service provider and manufacturer which brings people together through the power of messaging, meetings and calling. Ashleigh is working with the Women in AV as well as Diversity and Equality of Legal Technology and Security. https://www.starleaf.com/