With International Women’s Day coming up in early March, I thought we should discuss how to develop a pathway that encourages more women and girls to participate in tech-orientated careers. We just had a webinar on the topic of the Gender Pay Gap, and the ways to lessen it, but we are still coming up short at the very beginning of the journey, which is the challenge that women – and indeed other minorities – face when starting out on a career in areas like software engineering. We have thought about this process a lot, and I believe we have some answers.
We have, in fact, been asked by one of the world’s most iconic technology leaders to come up with a methodology that takes talented, but excluded, candidates from the classroom to the workplace.
I read an interesting story in Medium by a self-described Black Female Software Engineer who said she was not going to help with her (unnamed) employer’s diversity work. It’s not her job, and what she learnt didn’t come free or easily, she points out. I agree with her premise – she shouldn’t feel she has an additional job – poster child for diverse hiring – when she’s paid to code. However if young women are to see themselves working in the IT industry, they need to see people like them already there.
Here’s the outline of our process. It integrates many of the experiences and technologies we apply across our business, but it’s front-end loaded to achieve the early engagement that’s essential if we’re going to succeed in having a diverse workplace.
The initial contacts – the ‘top of the funnel’ – are crucial, involving campus events, connections with university societies and regular webinars with existing women employees and subject experts in everything from interview prep to follow up etiquette. Moving to the recruiting phase, we always look at gender decoding ads, to encourage a broader applicant pool. There are several online tools to assist in that task. We also make sure to anonymise CVs.
A lot of the process involves deconstructing the pathway many of us took to our professional careers, and the Interviewing and Onboarding sections reflect that. If you’ve never been in an office before, never mind been interviewed by a panel, the standard methods are, to put it mildly, daunting. We want to prepare both the candidate and the interviewers, so their biases are recognised and handled. The attention to detail extends to having a bright, welcoming, accessible meeting room. Finally, once hired, we encourage caring and deliberate ‘buddying’ to introduce the new employee to her workplace.
It’s not without its trials, and it can be hard to scale, but if as a society we are to engage a broader slice of the community in the world of work, and if as companies we want to fulfil our lofty diversity and inclusion goals, I believe this is worthy of discussion. As ever, I’m happy to talk about these issues with you at any time – contact me at [email protected]