So, you want to hire more women into your technical teams: Part 1

"We would really love to have women engineers on our team, but none apply"

So, you want to hire more women into your technical teams: Part 1

Hiring women into technical teams

“We would really love to have women engineers on our team, but we just don’t get any applying to us” is something I’ve heard from many different sized organisations in all parts of the world.

Is this something you have found yourself thinking or saying out loud? If so, I have good news, increasing the gender diversity of your team is an achievable goal!

Let’s talk about how to not only attract more women candidates, but to also help hire and retain them not just in your company, but in the industry. (Did you know that in Australia, women drop out of technology roles at almost double the rate of men?).

Diversity comes in many different flavours, including LGBTQIA+, gender diversity, nationality, race, disability, and lived experience, we are focusing on Gender Diversity here. 

A really key point to remember for this journey is that perfectionism is the enemy of progress. I’m sure you’re all adept at continuous improvement, it’s great to apply the same theory here; let’s aim to improve, be better than we were, learn from mistakes and move forward.

The Four Stages

There are four stages to hiring more women into your technical teams:

  1. Evaluate
  2. Attract
  3. Hire
  4. Retain

While I did say the good news is that improving the diversity of your technical teams is an achievable goal, the bad news is that you can’t start part way through the stages. Many companies  think that they are at Stage 3, the Hire stage, completely skipping over Stages 1 & 2. 

This is a great time to acknowledge that if you would like things to be different, it does require going back to the start and assessing the current state of gender diversity and considering what would make the company attractive to women.Often organisations become disillusioned at this point and give up because they have limited success

1. Evaluate

Collect the data about where your company currently is in regards to gender diversity. This isn’t always a comfortable exercise, but it is great to know where you’re at now, so that you can measure improvements.

Think about why your company wants diversity

Start with a really straight up question and cut to the chase:
“Why do we want diversity here?”

Reasons why some companies want diversity:

If you’re having some feelings or comments about ‘not wanting to lower the bar’, I suggest reading “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It)” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

What might make women feel unwelcome?

This is another moment that might lead to feeling some discomfort. It will take a moment, but it is the perfect time to remember that we’re not here to be perfect, we’re here to look for areas to improve in.

  • Does the company have a rigid work schedule or lots of overtime? Family obligations fall disproportionately on women, so an inflexible schedule may prevent them from thriving in your organisation. 
  • What kind of language is used at your workplace? Hyper-masculine language like “war rooms,” “dominate,” and “guys” may create an unwelcoming atmosphere. Sexual slang or “locker room talk” needs to be stopped immediately. A lot of men also find such topics exhausting. Leave them for the locker room, not the workplace. 
  • How does the team socialise or build culture? If it’s only late nights with heavy drinking, women may feel uncomfortable. Parents may not be able to stay out late on a weeknight. This doesn’t mean the death of fun or workplace drinks, consider having different opportunities for people to build relationships, such as getting a team lunch. Make sure that all events have non-alcoholic choices.

Learn more about gender equity in the workplace

To learn more about gender equity in the workplace and its impacts take a read of “The Good Guys,” and “What Works for Women at Work” by Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey. It presents a strong toolkit for women to get ahead in today’s workplace.

Challenge assumptions

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, often “Are we lowering the bar?” is asked when talking about diversity in the workplace. The question is loaded. It comes from an assumption that we already live in a meritocracy with fair hiring systems in place. It also suggests that women are less able when it comes to science and mathematics and that any DEI work is some kind of ‘charity’.

To challenge this assumption have a read of “Brotopia: Breaking up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley,” Emily Chang eloquently breaks down the origins of the word “meritocracy,” and explains how Computer Science transitioned from a field of women typists and “human calculators” to a male-dominated industry. A focus on improving diversity within an organisation often means applying the bar equally, and evaluating all the required skills. 

I don’t want you to hire unqualified women. That creates a situation where nobody wins, not your company and definitely not the women hired for a role they can’t succeed in. BUT, it is a fallacy that technically proficient women don’t exist, or that they get through interviews easily.


What next?

It’s great that you’re on this journey to build more diversity in your technical teams.

We’ve broken the process down into four stages.

For stage 1, you need to work through the following steps:

  • Think about why you want diversity,
  • Contemplate what might make women feel uncomfortable at work,
  • Learn more about gender equity in the workplace,
  • Challenge assumptions.

Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog posts that cover off the next 3 steps:

Part 2: Attract

Part 3: Hire

Part 4: Retain

If you want some more help with this process, get in touch.