Women in Tech: Bury Your Gender Bias & Be a Better Recruiter

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Only 26% of female graduates with STEM degrees work in related fields. Men with STEM degrees, on the other hand, are looking at upwards of 40%.

Before anyone jumps in, I’ll just get this out of the way: are there fewer women choosing a career in technology? Yes. Are more women leaving the tech space at double the rate of men? You bet. Are women with STEM degrees working elsewhere because the culture in tech doesn’t seem to know what inclusivity means? Oh, yeah. That, too.

Let me tell you a story.

Over a 2-year span, Allison Wynn, a Stanford grad student, her professor Shelly Correll, and a team of researchers attended over 80 on-campus recruiting sessions for graduating STEM students. The goal was to get a better look at one of the many possible sources for the gender disparity in technology roles.

These researchers found that both recruiters and companies elicit behavior and communication styles known to make women retreat. Take this cringe-y example:

One of the few times a female recruiter was publicly referenced in a crowd, a (male) representative made this detrimental intro: “This is Kathy. She’s really nice. She cries a lot.” Hardy, har har. Classic Kathy. 😑

Some recruiting companies sent women to these sessions, but they were few and far between. When women did have the opportunity to speak, they were often cut off by their male counterparts. Men asked and answered most of the questions, but were oh so kind enough to let women answer “soft” questions, like about company culture, rather than challenging, hard-hitting tech questions.

And of course, I can’t forget all of the lovely profanities and sexual innuendos that were woven into presentations. You can read more douchey comments and unfortunate events in Wynn and Correll’s 2018 publication.

But hey, it’s not all bad.

Sixty-percent of technology companies are actively working to eliminate gender biases and to recruit and retain more women. Just this year a Deloitte survey found that 76% of technology professionals agree that women hold unique leadership traits that can help not just lead, but build diverse teams. Kavitha Prabhakar, a principal at Deloitte, cited another study and explained that, compared to male leaders, women were more persuasive, assertive, bigger risk-takers, and outperformed their male colleagues in interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.

How to bury your gender bias in technology recruiting

Now that we’re all a little more educated, we can talk openly about how to make small, but powerful changes for women in technology. Employers that aren’t rethinking their recruitment strategies to attract female talent are rotting away in the dark ages.

Don’t be one of those companies. Consider these suggestions instead.

Rework job descriptions

Job descriptions are the first impression. What you choose to highlight will stick with recruits forever, so be selective. According to recent Ideal Employer data, women value benefits above any other company perk. They also look for jobs with growth potential, a challenging work environment, flexibility, and a positive culture. If job descriptions highlight only one or two of those values, you’re going in the wrong direction.

And just know that culture is more than just ping-pong tables, in-office video games, and fridges full of beer. You’re not a frat house. Know your audience. Speak to more people than just your bros, bro.

Try blind candidate screenings

I can’t even believe we have to go this far to establish a just hiring process, but, blind candidate screenings do wonders for diversity initiatives… in the early stages, anyway. I mean, resumes with male names are 40% more likely to land an interview than comparable resumes with female names.

That said, blind candidate screenings start by removing names, photos, and other demographic information from candidates’ profiles to reduce unconscious bias and to promote equality. The best route would be to invest in a recruiting software that’ll anonymize resumes and profiles for you.

Diversify the interview experience

I’d give this advice even if this wasn't a piece about women in technology: your interview committee should be a mix of men and women. Some anecdotal evidence has suggested that women feel more welcome when they meet other women in the interview process.

Say “hi” (seriously)

Opening up an interview with a simple “Hey, glad you could be here. Welcome. Here’s what we’re going to chat about…” is also just another best practice everyone everywhere should adopt.

Whether you’re a guy or a gal, interviewers in Silicon Valley are notoriously brag-y, cold, and uninviting. It’s not uncommon for an interviewer to kick off with “Tell me what you know about XYZ.” No hello. Nothing. Sure, you could try to rebuke that statement and claim that it’s a representation of the types of people they want on staff, but overall, this kind of obnoxiously self-motivated behavior is a turnoff to most decent human beings.

Be a role model for women

According to a global ISACA survey of women in technology, the biggest professional barrier is a lack of female mentorships and role models. Young women want to work alongside women in leadership roles to understand the track to those positions. Employers that value diverse leadership teams and actually promote women to senior-level roles will be the ones that recruit and retain female talent.
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Sam Sandler
Sam Sandler
Sam is a copywriter and strategist at Qualigence International. She enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and long walks through her Netflix queue.

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