It is no secret that there is a disproportional ratio of men to women working in the tech industry. Changing this aspect has been a priority for many big companies in recent years. However several have run into some unexpected challenges recruiting more women to join their ranks, unaware of inherent biases and obstacles that discourage women from entering the tech industry, or rising up within it. Without realizing it, companies have established cultures that are unwelcoming to women. In order for companies to create an environment that welcomes women, certain changes must be made.
1. Offer a Flexible Schedule
One of the biggest challenges that women face is the rigidity of traditional work schedules. This goes even beyond allowing employees to work 8-4 instead of 9-5. Many women are juggling careers and their familial responsibilities. Employees need to be able to adjust their schedules as needed to accommodate whatever life throws their way. Whether being allowed to work from home to care for a sick family member, or taking time off for school plays or soccer games, employees will feel more valued in a work environment that emphasizes performance and results over hours worked. Studies show that 86% of companies on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for offer some type of flexible schedule.
2. Put Women in Leadership Roles
It is essential for women to see other women in high powered positions within your company. This not only demonstrates gender non-biased hiring practices, but also stands as a career example for women in lower level positions. They need to believe that it is possible for women to break through the traditional “glass ceiling” that is said to keep female employees from moving to the top of the career ladder within companies. Foster women’s career growth by encouraging them to learn additional skills that might lead to a promotion to leadership roles down the road, take educational classes, and go to conferences. Having more women CEOs will help counter to stereotypical fraternity-like boys club often associated with the tech industry and allow other women to feel more comfortable entering a new company.
3. Sponsor Networking Events for Your Female Employees
It is critical that the women of your company feel that they have a community to support them. Give them a chance to meet and network with each other. Not only will this help create camaraderie, but it will help them build important business relationships that will aid them throughout their career. Also consider sponsoring or encouraging women to attend networking events outside of the company. This gives women a chance to expand their business contacts further and meet women throughout the tech industry.
4. Create a Mentorship Program with Women in Mind
The mentor/mentee relationship provides the kind of support and guidance that anyone would benefit from. However in an industry dominated with men, finding and establishing these relationships can be quite challenging for women. Building off your women’s networking events and encourage female CEOs to mentor other women within or outside your company. Women mentoring women within your company will help retain female hires, while mentoring outside of your company will increase your odds of bringing in more female tech talent.
5. Make Your Job Ads Female Friendly
Carefully consider how your job ads are depicting your company culture. While there is certainly nothing wrong with highlighting your fun, laid-back office atmosphere, emphasizing video games, pool tables, and endless supplies of beer appeal predominantly to young males. In order to strike a balance without sacrificing your company culture consider what female candidates might be looking for in a “fun laid-back company”. Ask your current female employees for their insights on what working and what could use some improvement. Furthermore be mindful of your word choice in job ads. Avoid using words like “rockstar”, “ninja”, and “warrior” which are far less appealing women than to their male counterparts.
6. Actively Seek Out Women
Make a conscious effort to find and bring in more female techies. This starts by advertising where women are likely to look. Look for women’s tech forums, mailing lists, or groups to make sure your ads reach female candidates. Encourage your female employees to reach out to their network of friends to spread the word, promote your company at tech conferences, and have your field marketers reach out to women they meet there. Finally consider implementing an internship program and bringing in women from local schools. Once they have gotten a feel for you company they are far more likely to return after graduation.
7. Review Your Interview Processes
It is important to make sure your interview process is fair and your interviewers are aware of prevalent social biases in our culture, as well as gender differences in interview behavior. Many people perceive males as more competent for a job because they tend to be more confident and outspoken, than their female counterparts. Men are more likely to play up their strengths and minimize their weakness in an interview, but it is important to look past this male bravado and truly consider which candidates are actually the most qualified. Additionally to ensure women feel comfortable in your interview try to include a woman if the interview is being conducted by more than one person.
8. Take Sexual Harassment Sexism Seriously
It should go without saying but your company should have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment but eliminating sexist tendencies in the workplace goes farther than a strict policy and requiring employees to watch an informational video. Ensure your workplace has a human resource department that women feel comfortable confiding in without fear of repercussion. A step Google is already taking is implementing training to combat unconscious biases, and benevolent sexism in the workplace.
9. Offer More Female Friendly Benefits
This goes beyond the standard maternity leave policies and perhaps an onsite childcare center for larger companies. Consider covering family planning and prenatal health. Companies like Google and Facebook, offer “baby bucks” (a sum of money given to help parents with new baby costs), a cryopreservation perk allowing women to freeze their eggs for the future, and a company sponsored concierge service to help out busy mom with things like booking tickets and buying groceries.
10. Offer Paternity Leave
While you may be trying to attract female workers, offering paternity leave can go a long way in showing your commitment to equality. Since this perk is not standard or required it will demonstrate your company’s commitment to working families and significantly improve your reputation.
Studies have shown that a diverse workplace is the most successful kind of workplace. If your company has a disproportionate ratio of male to female employees it might be time to take a hard look at some of your policies and processes. Instituting these initiatives will show potential female hires that you are serious about your commitment to gender equality in the workplace.