Diversity Recruitment And Sourcing - Still The Silver Bullet To Get More Women Into Tech?

March 27, 2015

The past 12 months have been somewhat of an ‘annus horribilis’ for tech companies reporting on their lack of diversity. Aside from the systemic issues that have been much reported, what is changing at the talent pipeline stage? Could the issue be solved at source?

The attraction deficit

diverse graph

Often cited as one of the main reasons why women don’t choose to proceed with a career in tech is the stereotypical representation of the industry. To make tech work for women, it needs to lose the white + male stigma and ‘uncool’ image.

Here at ShowTech (changed from Technically Compatible/Tungl in 2019), we recently came across a blog post on diversity and sourcing in Recruiting Daily by recruiter Nathan Vance. His article is inspiring because it approaches diversity from the other perspective: as a white male how do you get involved with initiatives that help improve the overall diversity of your organisation? One of the things he learned from getting involved in his local community’s initiatives was the value of equal participation and opportunity. His point was an obvious one, but one that is not often cited: you don’t have to be a woman to get involved in your local women’s networking group. If you are supportive and have something to offer, you have earned a place at the table

By showing empathy and encouragement for a cause, inclusion will follow. Highlighting the need for the talent acquisition industry to move away from quota-based recruitment metrics and in to recruiting on merit.

The problem with recruiting with diversity quotas is that other factors, such as skillset, cultural fit and personality are sometimes overlooked. This can have damaging consequences in terms of team morale and retention. Talent acquisition strategies need to challenge perceptions at the very beginning of the recruitment process, prior to screening of candidates, they need to empower minority candidates so they feel confident enough to come forward.

The pioneers

In the 2014 CIO 100 in the UK only 7% were female, 2% lower than the most recently reported global figure by Harvey Nash. Surveys like this highlight that the diversity challenge is even more of an issue at executive level. To create a balanced talent pool, the size and scope of said pool needs to increase.

Fortunately, things do seem to be changing in three particular areas:

  1. Attracting women back into the workplace after a career break
  2. Attracting in-house professionals to change career path
  3. Attracting young girls into coding and STEM-based careers as part of their formal education.

So who are the pioneers helping to change the ratio so the benefits are felt at every level of the organisation?

Working mums

According to a BCS survey, 53% think it’s difficult for women to return to a job in IT following a career break. The issue also appears to be one that bears equal resonance across the pond.

Our riskiest assumption was that women in mass would be interested in coding. - Adda Birnir, Skillcrush Founder, speaking to Rocketship FM

It’s not generally a case of ability, it’s usually more to do with a pre-conceived assumption of tech that hinders women, especially mums, considering it as a career option. This is, of course, not so with everyone, there are obviously a lot of working mothers who have carved out great careers in the industry, but in terms of trying to increase the talent pool, this is an area with great opportunity.

Companies like Skillcrush and techmums have seen this potential and are offering courses and support to attract more women; with the hope of tearing down barriers and opening up the tech industry further.

In-house career development

This type of programme is also proving effective within companies themselves. In the DiversityInc Top 50 global companies case studies, Sodexo was recognised as the 2014 overall winner in the mentoring category. Their peer-to-peer mentoring scheme pairs together new hires with frontline managers to expand professional development and empower them to work in a trust-based environment.

By giving employees a sense of inclusion in all operational processes, including IT, businesses can help to develop talent pipelines, identify relevant skills in-house and reduce overall hiring costs.

Attracting the youth subset

There are a multitude of non-profit organisations who are helping to extend the reach of technical knowledge at a younger age. The Girls Who Code initiative in the US aims to empower 1,200 girls with intensive computer science education this summer. Founded in 2012, this non-profit organisation is sponsored by corporate partners such as, Expedia, Google and Facebook. This 7-week programme ties education with outreach and mentorship in partnership, and onsite, at these corporations. The programme is free and no prior coding experience is necessary.

In the UK, the government introduced coding to the national curriculum last September. The Chief Executive of Codecademy, Zach Sims, called this change ‘unprecedented’ and highlights how this issue is one of national importance. For more on this revolutionary step, see our blog post ‘Coding on the Curriculum‘.

We’re a long way from achieving parity in terms of the number of young women interested in a career in tech. However, for the next generation of leaders, these initiatives are demonstrating a new perspective on potential career paths. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but we’re certainly going in the right direction to increase the talent pool and awareness of opportunities.

Corporate wellbeing - a holistic approach

Corporations are increasingly eager to be seen to promote the types of initiatives discussed in this article. Not only does it help increase the number of potential applicants in an era of profound talent shortages, but it also helps to reenergise their entire strategy:

As far as we’re concerned, our strategy needs to be going to them, instead of expecting ‘we will build it and they will come’. - Maxine Williams, Head of Global Diversity at Facebook

This underpins the entire argument that a more holistic approach to hiring strategies needs to be taken. However it is a chicken and egg movement, because you can’t have an inclusive strategy without equally inclusive applicants.

Having worked in the IT industry for over 20 years, and been the only female in the room on many occasions, I can say with some certainty that we haven’t yet resolved the challenge of attracting an equal balance of men and women into the industry. - Monique Morrow, Cisco CTO, quoted in Diversity, recruitment and IT skills – The 2014 CIO review

As highlighted in the above quote, progress is being made, but it’s slow. With society’s increasing reliance on next generation of tech, it is in our own interests to foster cultural, ethnic and gender diversity. Diversity works, let’s make workplaces work for diversity.

What do you think about this issue? Are you seeing other ways that are working to increase your talent pool? Help us start the debate by sharing your comments with the ShowTech Team, drop us a tweet.

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