Chances are if you’re reading this right now, one of your largest recruiting challenges is hiring women in technology roles. The fact that you’ve realized it’s a problem and are actively seeking to fix it is the first step. But what specific initiatives or programs can you put in place to meet your hiring goals? How can you reduce bias in your job ads? What can be done to prevent turnover and lower the quit rate?
We asked a handful of women in tech what they wish employers knew. While these thoughts only represent a small fraction of the women in technology, we hope it can serve as a good starting point.
Typically, a candidate’s resume is the first thing you look at when evaluating someone for an open job. And while it can be a good starting place for the interview, there are a lot of other factors to consider.
Holly Hester-Reilly, Founder of H2R Product Science, prefers interviews that mirror the actual job functions of the position she is applying for. She says, “In terms of process and structure of interviews, I love it when employers focus more on asking for real demonstrations of my skill in the activities involved in the job, instead of focusing on the titles or roles I've played in the past. Since advancement within organizations is often affected by implicit biases or the impact of relationships that can be harder for women to build up in tech workplaces, de-emphasizing past roles and advancement in the interview process is a great way to identify female talent that will thrive on the job.”
As someone who works in HR, you’re aware that having a structured and fair interview process is key to attracting the right talent. But what specifically can you do to help women feel comfortable, confident, and welcome?
JJ DiGeronimo, President of Tech Savvy Women, has interviewed her fair share of candidates during her decades in the tech industry. She points out that interviews could be much more productive for females if a few key events took place.
“It would help if interviewers became more familiar with women's approach to answering questions. For example, women often use more words with fewer details, so it’s critical that interviewers respectfully probe to understand their potential.”
image c/o Aline Lerner
Aline Lerner, co-founder of interviewing.io, provides additional insight on the nature of technical interviews. She writes, “At the end of the day, because technical interviewing is indeed a game, like all games, it takes practice to improve. But unless you’ve been socialized to expect and be prepared for the game-like aspect of the experience, it’s not something that you can necessarily intuit.”
In a 2013 blog post entitled “Technical Interviews Make Me Cry”, Pamela Fox gives some pointers to interviewers to help combat the intimidation of on-the-spot interviews. She advises companies to “seriously consider the format of the on-the-spot technical interview and whether that's the best way to judge all candidates. In my experience, when we are programming on the job, we're given the problem and we have time to think about it. We have time to research possible solutions, we have time to try stuff out that we know will most likely fail, and we can wait until we have something decent before we show it to our colleagues.”
Assuming you already have some female representation in your workplace, are you including them in your hiring process?
Hailey Vasquez, a Project Manager at Odd Dog Media, stresses the importance of doing just that, saying, “I think any hiring team or panel needs to be made up of both men and women - ideally from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds - to even the playing field. A female involved in the hiring process is more likely to pick up on microaggressions or potential prejudice in the hiring process, and thus work to correct those issues. Furthermore, she can provide additional insight into how female candidates' answers and behavior may have differed from male candidates. Although the men and women should be treated equally during the hiring process, I think there are differences in phrasing and tone that are necessary depending on the candidate's gender and personality.”
Often referred to as either anonymous recruiting or blind recruiting, this practice removes any personally identification information from a candidate’s resume, cover letter, or assignment. While it’s not necessarily a new process, it is becoming more common.
Bethan Vincent, a Marketing Manager at Bytemark, says that their anonymous recruitment process was something that attracted her to the company. “[The process] is aimed at reducing bias and encouraging a diverse range of applicants to apply. As part of the anonymous process applicants use an alias to submit a cover letter and list of skills. This is then followed up by an online interview - your identifying information isn’t revealed until you make it through to the final interview phase.”
While Vincent is an advocate for the anonymous recruiting, she does think it could be further improved on, saying, “Whilst I think this is a great method, I do think even anonymous recruitment could be improved through understanding that women in particular are much less likely to “big up” their technical skills. This is an area where I believe our anonymous recruitment process still requires more development and further thinking.”