by Gianna Scorsone

Women in tech: how to increase gender diversity

Mar 26, 2018
CareersStaff ManagementTechnology Industry

The sooner you address gender imbalance at your tech business, the sooner you can start reaping the rewards that increased gender diversity offers.

It’s no secret tech companies struggle to hire female talent. The tech talent gender gap continues to make headlines even though more young women are studying computer science in high school and in U.S. universities now than in the past several years. However, those women who do make it into tech are twice as likely to quit their jobs as their male colleagues, according to the “Tech Leavers Study” by Kapor. So how can companies work to combat these multifaceted, industry-wide issues? The solution lies in addressing the organizational impediments that lead to low retention and in creating a more diverse candidate pool from the start.

While implementing the necessary measures to attract and retain more female tech professionals is challenging, it is possible. Here’s how.

Identify and address unconscious biases

While it’s unpleasant to face, we all have unconscious biases when it comes to hiring and day-to-day management that we have to work to avoid. More than 2 million employees leave their jobs due solely to repeated instances of unfairness or unconscious bias, according to research by the Level Playing Field Institute. Because of the impact managers have on the daily experience of the employees in their department, helping them identify, address, and reduce these biases can go a long way in improving retention rates for female tech employees.

Addressing a gender imbalance at your company can be daunting, especially when internal employees become defensive about the reason for the imbalance, but the key to improving gender diversity on your tech teams is to identify and address unconscious biases contributing to the problem.

How can you improve the hiring process to eliminate any biases? Hire More Women in Tech is an excellent resource. The website provides helpful recommendations like analyzing whether your job post descriptions are repelling candidates based on gendered wording. Or, it has suggestions on how to take a look at your job descriptions to see if they convey the message that your workplace might be unwelcoming toward women, with a few examples of how to solve these issues. 

Involve more women in hiring process

An effective strategy to uncover the hidden biases in your hiring process is to include more women in the actual hiring process. Making women a foundational part of the recruitment and hiring process for tech jobs at your business will help minimize hidden or unconscious biases, by providing a different perspective, such as uncovering biases in job descriptions. 

Integrating more female decision-makers in the hiring process also provides female candidates with proven representation at the business. Candidates are more apt to accept a job offer from a company where they interviewed with both male and female tech managers or company leaders, over an offer from a company with a hiring process that consists solely of male executives.

Expand flexible work-life policies (without repercussions for using them)

While addressing the gender issues within your work culture and hiring process is a great start, it only partially solves the reasons women leave the workforce earlier than their male counterparts. One of the major factors is inflexible work arrangements, according to research from the Anita Borg Institute, which identifies top female-friendly Tech employers.

Inflexible work arrangements is the number one organizational policy that leads to low retention among female tech employees. It stems from a variety of issues that disproportionately impact women, the main one being childcare. While expanding flexible work-life policies, like more remote work flexibility, additional PTO, and work from home (WFH) options, should be the first step, ensuring employees are able to utilize these benefits without overt or subtle repercussions is essential. While your company may provide an unlimited PTO policy, if employees feel they will face consequences for utilizing this benefit, whether they be blatant or more subtle, then it becomes counterproductive and can lead to increased turnover, especially among women.

We know tech companies get very creative with non-traditional work arrangement offerings — as the industry overall has greatly augmented the traditional work day for Developers (and the like) to make offers more attractive to top candidates. Think outside the box and offer flexible work-life policies representative of common needs for underrepresented employee groups and integrate a policy that guarantees employees won’t experience repercussions for taking you up on them. You’ll be surprised to see the impact these changes have on gender diversity and retention rates.

Gender diversity in tech is an industry-wide issue. While things are looking better for the next generation of female tech talent, more work needs to be done now to ensure women in tech are represented, have safe work environments, receive the benefits they need, and avoid unconscious biases during hiring and day-to-day management. Follow the strategies outlined here to address a gender imbalance at your tech business and start reaping the rewards that increased gender diversity offers.