Getting more women into the Australian tech industry represents an $11 billion opportunity over the next two decades.
Modelling in the Australian Computer Society’s (ACS) Digital Pulse 2021 report estimates that increasing the number of women in the tech industry to 48% would require an additional 382,000 full-time positions by 2053.
The ACS believe the benefits of this would lead to the generation of, on average, $1.8 billion each year for the next 20 years (or about $11 billion in net present value).
While 47% of jobs are held by women nationally, there is a big disparity when it comes to the tech sector, where women make up only 29% of the tech workforce.
Research consistently shows that the most diverse companies outperform those that are less diverse in terms of profitability and business outcomes. So there are numerous reasons for tech companies to take action, and recruit and retain more female employees.
How can organisations go about correcting the gender imbalance in tech? What practical steps can be taken to attract more women into tech roles?
In this article, we will explore how to get more women in tech, so companies can work towards gender equality and unlock the enormous financial and organisational benefits of a more diverse tech industry.
Take care to use gender neutral language, check your pronouns and remove gender bias from your job ad titles and job descriptions of an ideal candidate. Women can be put off applying for a job if they get the impression they will be working with a group of ‘brogrammers’ and made to feel like an outsider.
Research shows, job ad language such as ‘rock star’, ‘guru’, ‘ninja’, ‘competitive’, ‘ambitious’, ‘assertive’, ‘action-oriented’ and ‘results-driven’ are more likely to attract men for instance. Replace these terms with more inclusive attributes such as with ‘collaborative’, ‘adaptable’, ‘solution-minded’, ‘resilient’, ’’ and ‘creative’ to make the job ad more appealing to women job-seekers.
Also, women tend to not apply if they don’t meet the majority of job requirements. Separating ‘must-have’ skills and including ‘nice-to-have’ skills in a job ad can help get more applications from women. Keeping the ‘must-have’ skills list shorter than the ‘nice-to-haves’ can help. Also, remove arbitrary degree requirements from roles that don’t require them and highlight the soft skills needed to succeed in the role to attract a more diverse range of applicants.
LinkedIn’s Gender Insights Report found that 68% of women say salary range and benefits are the most important part of a job description. So including clear salary parameters and information about benefits is key to attracting women to your organisation.
Include your diversity and inclusion statement and commitments in your job ads to help candidates better understand your culture and feel comfortable submitting their applications. We suggest you communicate in job postings that females, non-binary and gender-diverse people are encouraged to apply.
To make the interview process fair and inclusive, organisations can provide bias training to interviewers, form a diverse interview panel including women, and use structured interviews (such as behavioural-based interview questions) for all candidates, and objective measures to compare candidates’ qualifications and skills.
A Catalyst report found that women were significantly more likely than men to leave the tech industry for a job in another industry for at least one personal reason (i.e. wanting to make a greater social contribution, childcare, family reasons, or their spouse/ partner being relocated). Suggesting the tech sector is lacking in the provision of the flexible work environment women need to juggle work and the demands of their personal life.
Women are more likely to pursue a role if the organisation has appealing working policies that suit their lifestyle, responsibilities and preferences. Think generous parental leave and pay, flexible start and finish times, the opportunity to work from home part or full-time, job sharing solutions and flexible part-time positions. Organisations need to ensure flexible work arrangements aren’t counterproductive for their employees’ ability to upskill and advance in their careers.
Flexibility in where, when and how women work is key to attracting and retaining talented women in technology. So be sure to promote the great things your organisation does in terms of hybrid working, workplace culture, equal pay and leave entitlements in your job ads and openly discuss these during the job interview with candidates.
Representation matters. Setting up a program at your company where both men and women in senior roles mentor and sponsor junior female colleagues can improve employee retention. Harvard Business Review research shows formal mentoring programs boost minority and female representation in management on average by 9-24%.
Get started by pairing new female hires with a mentor who can help answer questions and provide guidance and coaching on any challenges they face in their new position. Just having someone in their corner is a huge benefit for a mentee in terms of navigating new experiences and issues, their well-being and longevity at an organisation.
Better yet, implement a sponsorship program where senior colleagues offer guidance but also actively help to advance a sponsee’s career. It is the role of the sponsor to advocate for the advancement of their sponsee and help them access opportunities to achieve their career ambitions. For instance, a sponsor might advocate for their female sponsee to manage a challenging project to develop themselves or to be considered for a promotion.
Sponsor and mentorship programs that help to strenghthen women’s professional development will also help set your company apart from others when prospective female employees are researching tech jobs. Promote your programs and what they entail on your website and LinkedIn (41% of women research a company on LinkedIn before applying for a job there). This signals to women that you have formal processes in place that’ll support them to succeed in their new role and appropriate pathways to foster further advancement down the track.
This study shows that more than half the women surveyed left tech jobs for other industries to seek out growth opportunities.
To ensure working at your company is appealing to women and that you retain ambitious female talent, provide professional development opportunities and a clear understanding of all the potential pathways they have to advance their career within your organisation.
Run regular performance check-ins and reviews, create professional development plans and invest in training and learning opportunities. Offer opportunities for your female employees to attend women-in-tech events, trade shows, webinars and professional conferences to expand their knowledge, seek inspiration and expand their network. Recognise and celebrate the achievements of female staff members.
Again, share all of these activities and the success of your female staff members on social media and on your website to illustrate your company is an inclusive place where women in tech not only grow but thrive.
Research shows that feeling like an outsider can have a detrimental impact on performance and lead people to leave an organisation. Feeling like an outsider relative to their coworkers can impact women’s access to development opportunities, sponsorship and even their leadership aspirations if the organisation is lacking in female role models.
As a minority in most tech workplaces, it’s important organisations take steps to ensure women feel valued and included, stamp out any hostile or exclusionary behaviour towards women and eliminate overt forms of gender discrimination, like team cliques, rituals or company events that are exclusionary or unappealing to women. Managers and team leaders should incorporate structured opportunities for feedback that address issues of exclusionary behaviours.
An excellent way to attract more women into tech roles is for organisations to have a clear priority for promoting women into leadership and management roles. Women holding senior positions is hugely encouraging for prospective female candidates. It gives them confidence in your company culture and provides role models for them to follow in their footsteps, which is especially important for young women starting out in tech to see.
You may like to profile women executives and managers on your website and social channels sharing the details of their career path and trajectory, why they chose your organisation, their proudest accomplishments, and their future hopes and dreams.
At Code Like a Girl, we partner with many leading tech organisations to place women directly into the tech workforce and give them a leg up through our internship placements.
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