Women in Tech: Bridging the Gender Gap

Even with an increased emphasis on promoting STEM to girls in schools, the tech industry today still has a significant gender gap. Women in tech make up less than 20% of U.S. jobs available, reports Wired, and further, women hold a lower share of tech jobs now than they did in the ’80s. Given that women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, it seems natural that they should make up about half of any tech team.

Bridging the gender gap in tech, however, is a challenge that will take effort on many fronts, ranging from education to company policies and procedures. Take a look at your own IT department. Does it reflect the national average? Or, is your company taking deliberate steps to recruit more female faces?

Addressing the Gender Gap

While companies can’t persuade more women to go into computer science, making more jobs available might attract them to the field. The first step is to write and implement a diversity policy. Hiring managers can work with leadership to put a plan into place. For example, you can create a company goal that states, “By 2022, we will increase the number of women in our tech department 20%.” When you address your own diversity in hiring, you can take steps toward correcting the gender gap.

Another area to address is the unconscious bias that might be playing a role in your recruiting. According to Psychology Today, the brain has so much information to take in that it uses “mental shortcuts” to deal with complexity. It defaults to your background, experiences and societal stereotypes to make decisions without you realizing. To deal with unconscious bias, some companies use blind recruitment, removing personal information from resumes, such as name and gender, and only assessing a candidate based on experience and skills.

Women in tech have reported recognizing a gender gap during the job interview process. To eliminate the subjectivity that can creep in, use a standardized process. Pose the same set of questions in the same order to help an interviewer make clearer comparisons, an article in the Harvard Business Review suggested.

Also, make sure that your recruiting team is diverse. When making decisions about potential employers, people tend to look for someone like themselves in interviews, according to research by sociologist Lauren Rivera, published in HBR. The more female faces you have on your hiring team, the better your chances of recruiting more women into your tech department.

Demonstrating Your Commitment to Equality

Once you understand what you can do to help address the gender gap and get more women in tech, get the word out about your commitment to equality by making sure your career website and job ads include your diversity policy.

Furthermore, partner with professional organizations, such as the Anita Borg Institute or Women in Technology. Post wanted ads with these groups and attend their job fairs to show your dedication and commitment.

You can donate or volunteer for (or pay your employees to take part in) organizations that encourage girls to get into the field, such as Girls in Tech, Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code. By establishing relationships with young women, you build a reputation of being a company that is committed to diversity in its workforce.

Supporting the Women Who Work for You

If companies want a diverse workforce, getting more women in the door is only half of the equation. Once women land a job in the tech field, they leave at a 45% higher rate than men, reports Forbes.

A survey by the job site Indeed found that the biggest reason for this exodus is lack of career growth. According to the survey, just 53% of respondents said women have the same chances to land senior leadership jobs as their male colleagues. Other reasons for leaving include unacceptable pay, work-life balance and sexual discrimination or harassment.

To improve the situation, the survey found that women want companies to be transparent about salaries, including sharing ranges in job descriptions that would help them identify better opportunities and negotiate a more fair compensation. They also want a more clearly defined path for growth.

While companies need to play a role, women should also be their own advocates. In an interview with Fast Company, Kim Williams, who organized the Indeed survey, said, “As more women advance in their careers, they break down barriers and set crucial examples for others. Once you get into those management and senior leadership positions, continue to find ways to hold yourself and others accountable for creating an environment where women are included and have access to what they need to be successful.”

Closing the Gap

There are many ways that you, as a small-business owner, can address this challenge, whether it’s making changes to hiring practices, finding community sponsorship programs or something else entirely. Ultimately, by creating an environment that attracts women and promotes them into leadership roles, you can help move the needle and address the gender gap in tech.

Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza
Stephanie Vozza is an experienced writer who specializes in small business, finance, HR and retail. She has been a regular columnist for Fast Company for more than four years and her work frequently appears in Inc., Entrepreneur and Parade.

See all posts by Stephanie Vozza
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