A new study of women in technology careers found 75% had been asked about their family, marital status or children during job interviews. 84% had been told they were too aggressive at work, and 87% had received demeaning comments from male colleagues.
As conversations continue around the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs, statistics like these reveal how far the industry has yet to come. But as tech companies grapple with a talent shortage that threatens innovation, the smartest have recognized the dearth of women in tech as a vast opportunity and are transforming their workplaces and hiring practices to attract more women.
If your talent acquisition team is struggling to address gender disparity in technical roles, here are some strategies to help bridge the gap.
Use job content to show how engineers make a big difference
Like it or not, society still sends messages to women and girls that STEM work is men’s work. Tech companies can combat these ingrained biases by making their work resonate with women.
Engineer Lina Nilsson has one idea for how to do that. Nilsson’s research found women are drawn to STEM work that lets them contribute to solving the world’s biggest problems. As she told Fortune, U.S. university programs that focus on engineering solutions for the betterment of society, like reducing global poverty and inequality, are seeing dramatically higher enrollment from women, often near 50-50 parity with men. Nilsson says highlighting the global impact of engineering work could inspire more women to pursue education and careers in tech.
For STEM employers, this means writing job descriptions that speak directly to the societal benefits of engineering. How does your technology empower people around the world or help solve global problems? If your engineers have the chance to work on big, impactful challenges, highlight this in your job content when you post a job. Work with area universities and colleges to convey these inspirational opportunities in engineering curricula.
Create a gender-neutral hiring process
Despite many managers’ good intentions, gender biases in the hiring process persist. Being aware of these biases can help eradicate them.
First, try to write gender-neutral job descriptions. When job content emphasizes traditionally male-associated words like “aggressive” and “assertive,” women might think they aren’t a good fit for the role and choose not to apply.
In a 2014 analysis, Ericsson found more female candidates applying to jobs with descriptions written by female managers across 2,000 open positions. One hypothesis for this behavior was a difference in the description wording based on the hiring manager’s gender. Ericsson then decided to do a “gender bias wash” of job descriptions, removing male-focused references and language. This action increased the percentage of female applicants to one applicant portal from 16% to 21%.
On average, men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the qualifications, while women often only apply if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Avoid deterring great candidates by focusing on the core requirements for a position and listing “nice-to-have” characteristics separately, clearly labeled as not required.
Follow the lead of tech companies that are taking action
In October 2015, 26 tech companies — including Indeed, Facebook and Microsoft — pledged to consider hiring alumni from Girls Who Code, a program that teaches coding and software development skills to girls. Other companies can follow suit by partnering with local high schools and universities to provide internships and job opportunities to women in the STEM pipeline.
Still, getting women in the door is just half the battle. Tech companies need to ensure women feel safe and included in what are often male-dominated workplaces. One way is to encourage employees to come together and share their experiences with one another and company leadership. Another way to ensure accountability is to create a role dedicated to overseeing issues of inclusion. Indeed has recently done just that and is currently hiring a director of diversity and inclusion.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff invested $3 million dollars last year to ensure that women were paid 100% of what men are paid for the same role. Google has partnered with ABI.Local to help women in tech expand their professional networks, a critical ingredient for career advancement.
Striving for gender parity in tech isn’t just good for women — it’s good for business. A UC Davis study found companies with the highest percentage of female board members and executives saw a 74% higher median return on assets and equity.
And, employers will only see similar results as they broaden their notions of diversity: Teams made up of people of different genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds are more creative and hard working. Talent acquisition functions that build a diverse organization today will give their business a competitive edge well into the future.
For more information and insight on putting these strategies into action at your organization, visit indeed.com/hire.