We have created these guidelines in consultation with a number of thought leaders and influencers both male and female from the HR, recruitment and technology sectors. All of whom commonly cited technology recruitment as one of the main challenges to their business delivery and performance. With such pressures in recruitment so frequently felt it’s sometimes difficult to prioritise the diversity of your candidates and the gender balance of your talent pipeline. However much research indicates businesses with greater diversity benefit from higher employee satisfaction, greater product innovation, and quicker speed to market and ultimately higher revenues.
These guidelines are split into three sections covering Job Descriptions, Advertising Strategy and Selection Process. These guidelines are designed to highlight some areas of difference and also suggest some practical ways you can address these differences and create a more gender balanced approach to recruitment. As part of the Tech Talent Charter commitments this will help your organisation ultimately work towards improving your female candidate pipeline to enable you to implement the Rooney Rule (interviewing at least one female candidate, where available, as part of the recruitment process).
And in turn I think the key is making sure that inspiration is passed onto our clients. They have confidence in us and our female leaders.”
- Focus on skills. Within the technology sector jobs descriptions can be very narrow and focus on specific technologies, coding languages, platforms…etc. These will only create a narrow applicant pool and may deter women who don’t necessarily have the specific experience with each of the technologies from applying. However a well-educated, dedicated, quick learner who is also adaptable will be able to pick up new technologies with ease. Focus on those skills in your job description to ensure you continue to attract high-calibre candidates, without deterring women.
- Showcase training opportunities. Highlight learning opportunities like formal training and mentorship programs. This implies that you are willing to hire candidates who do not meet every single listed job qualification. It also shows a commitment to helping employees gain new skills on the job. Both of these messages can help alleviate concerns of under-qualification.
- Words can make all the difference. Avoid superlative terms like asking for “experts”, candidates who are “assertive”, or “best of the best” implies that you are looking for someone at the very top of their field. Using these phrases may deter applicants who recognise that they are advanced in their skills, they may even be the best among their peers, but not necessarily the most experienced in their field or outspoken. Phrases such as “resilient, collaborative, creative and must be highly competent” are more likely to attract a diversity of candidates.
- “He” vs. “She.” It’s easy to write this line without thinking: “The qualified candidate will be dedicated. He will be willing to work extended hours.” For every reference to your male qualified candidate, make sure you use a feminine pronoun elsewhere. Women are more likely to respond to gender-neutral or gender-balanced job advertisements, rather than those that assume the successful applicant will be a “he”.
- Balance gender-themed words. Words such as active, competitive, dominate, decisive, and objective can make job descriptions less appealing to women, compared to descriptions that also use feminine-themed words such as community, dependable, responsible, and committed. Many of these words are synonyms and can be interchanged. By using a mixture of both, you create an image of a balanced culture open to both genders.
- Company culture. The phrase “We work hard and play hard.” is often thrown in to highlight a fun company culture, but it also implies that employees are expected to spend time outside of working hours with their co-workers. This can deter people who have commitments outside of work from applying. It’s important to be clear about the time commitment you expect, and what additional demands on employees’ time might be.
Working With Recruitment Agencies
- Have females present in as many stages of the recruitment process as possible. Recent research by Pluralsight and Women Who Code found that ‘imposter syndrome’ in a male-dominated industry was one of the top challenges for women in technology. It’s much easier for people to see themselves fitting in when they see people like themselves in the process or visible in the organisation.
- Ensure that you give adequate time for discussion on both sides about the culture and environment of the business. Women are more likely to want to know what it’s actually like to work in a business, so invest time in discussing the culture of your organisation. Women are also more likely to have flexible working needs then men (typically 15% of men, compared to 85% of women with children need some degree of flexibility in their work), so ensure if there are such questions that women have an opportunity to understand and ask.
- Invest more time in talking to female candidates throughout the selection process. From our research we found that female candidates typically needed a lot more conversation and information before committing to an interview or job offer. Ensure that your recruiters invest in this and have regular touch points with female candidates throughout the selection process.
- Ensure you offer a fair starting salary offer, only 8% of women negotiate on the first offer compared to 45% of men (What works, Gender Equality by Design Iris Bohnet). Ensure that the salary is fair and that you don’t lose women due to not offering the same package as men achieve post negotiation.
- Give women time to think about the offer and decision. From our conversations with technology recruiters they observed that men typically accept job offers on the same day whereas women typically prefer 2-3 days to think it over. Again ensure that all questions are answered to enable women to make the right judgements.
De-biasing The Selection Process
- Don’t schedule interviews when you are time pressured as you will be far more likely to make quick decisions and biased decisions when you are not fully engaged and not thinking about what’s on your “to do” list
- Use competency based and structured interviews where you ask all candidates the same questions, and make judgements based on experience and examples, rather than opinion and judgement.
- A study through the Clayman Institute of Gender Studies at Stanford found that the number of female musicians in orchestras when up by 20% after the method of selection was changed from face to face to blind auditions. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend interviews be conducted from behind screens but do use multi selection methods rather than just interviews – where possible try and incorporate a range of selection methods such as ability tests, case studies, and 100 day plans to open up the variety and breadth of the assessment, and minimise the risk of biased decisions.
- Score your assessments – applying ratings and scores reduces the chances of making decisions on gut instinct or potentially biased reasons.
- Use a number of assessors across selection stages but avoid panel interviews. Using a selection of people increases the richness of information and quality of assessments people make, whereas in group scenarios people are far more likely to be influenced by the judgements and opinion of others. Research by McDaniel 1994 showed that structured individual assessor interviews were the most accurate at 46% reliability and the lowest reliability was reported for unstructured panel interviews at 32%.
- Use appropriate selection methods relevant for the job. If the job never requires you to present to a panel, why does your selection process?
- Set your selection criteria upfront rather than during the process. Research has shown that if we are clear and agree at the beginning what are the “needs to have” and the “nice to have” with regards to people requirements, we are far less likely to change our minds or be influenced by bias during interviews.
And lastly it doesn’t stop at offer stage.
Resigning from a job can be an unsettling and uncertain time. To reduce this uncertainty, ensure that candidates remain informed and updated on their on-boarding plan.
Female candidates may typically want more information on the following areas:
- Hours of work
- Mentoring programmes
- Employee benefits
- Flexible working policies (including options for parental leave for both men and women)
- Team environment
- Career pathways and approach to development
- Culture and descriptions of the type of work they will be doing
- A contact to answer pre-onboarding questions
Since the initial discussions with the business about the charter we have appointed an executive sponsor, steering group, improved our gender diversity measures and held a school day for local young girls on what careers in technology are actually like. We are working towards implementing the Rooney Rule over the next 6 months.
I’m very proud to say we have 24% of our technology roles being help by women and we will continue to improve this moving forward”
Pluralsight and Women Who Code (2016), Study: Women in tech careers yearn for female role models and flexibility in the workplace, Online. https://www.pluralsight.com/blog/career/women-in-tech–what-women-want