Want To Recruit More Women In Tech? Start With The Job Description
The media is full of articles about the lack of women in IT and what to do about it. Much of the focus seems to be on capturing hearts and minds at a young age, getting young girls into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects or apprentice schemes, and directing them onto a technical career path. That’s all well and good, but as anyone working in IT will tell you, IT is much broader than just the technical programming element. We don’t necessarily need more techies. We need a better understanding of what a career in IT means, and a more flexible employment approach. You could say that when it comes to recruiting women, IT suffers from both a PR problem and an ongoing HR challenge.
Let’s start with the image problem. Before I sat down to write this blog, I looked at a few IT job specs. They had several things in common. They were dry, full of acronyms, and made no mention of the bigger picture or impact the role has on the business. Some of them had no indication of the interpersonal or transferable skills required, or how candidates will have the opportunity to creatively solve problems or influence efficiency and effectiveness. Women are naturally good at many of these things, yet that’s not how the job descriptions were portrayed.
Other than knowing that IT pays fairly well compared to other industries, most people think you need to be a computer whizz to work in tech. I’m the perfect example. Whilst I work in IT, I apply that knowledge in an HR context as a consultant and solution architect. I can’t rebuild a motherboard, but I understand business processes and the role technology plays in achieving a client’s business objectives.
The second area where I think the IT industry needs to improve if it is to attract more women, is in the flexibility of its employment. When I go to customer meetings, it’s typically with the CIO, Head of HR or senior directors. The more senior you go up the career ladder, the less women you find. Those women working at the top are usually either mothers with grown up children or no children. There are, of course, exceptions (and I really admire them), but they seem few and far between. As an industry, IT has historically been quite poor at adapting its employment practices to accommodate women with young children. It’s ironic that an industry where technology is designed to make our lives easier, more flexible, and more mobile has not led the charge in this area.
I came back from maternity leave a few months ago and feel fortunate to work for an employer that’s supportive of women with young children, like me. Before returning to work, I sat down with my boss and discussed how to make small adaptations to my job – from avoiding early morning meetings and unnecessary travel, to where I can pump breast milk at work. But that’s not the norm for many women.
In fact, if you look at most job descriptions, they rarely mention whether flexible working is an option, or what their policies are towards working parents (male or female). It’s indicative of a wider problem, not just for women, but for the bottom line. Studies show that companies with different viewpoints, market insights and approaches to problem solving have higher sales, more customers and larger market share than their less-diverse rivals.
Working to make technology a more attractive, inclusive, working environment is in everyone’s interest. And it’s clear that now, more than ever, companies are keen to attract and retain more women into technology roles. My hope is that as they do so, they will recognize the small changes they can make that support women who work for them today and those they will attract tomorrow.
Flora Wan is a Managing Consultant for Gavdi. She leads the SAP SuccessFactors practice in the UK and Ireland.