6 ways to build a more diverse team in technology

Having in place a robust gender diversity plan is a topic on everyone’s mind in corporate Australia, especially the technology sector. Imogen Studders, Practice Leader of Davidson Technology, offers some words of wisdom on attracting and retaining a higher level of female talent.

We are awash with stories about the lack of women in technology and digital – this is not news. However, what is of interest is that although many companies are tackling the diversity problem, some approaches seem to be more well meaning, than effective.

As Deloitte so eloquently put it in their 2011 report ‘Only skin deep?’, "it is not enough to create a corporate version of Noah’s Ark bringing in ‘two of each kind’. There is a clear argument for actively managing diversity rather than assuming you will naturally derive the benefits.”

The reality is that we’re currently experiencing a dramatic shift in the workforce where more and more women are returning to work after maternity leave. With this shift comes a need to adapt employee offerings and recruitment processes to ensure businesses meet women’s changing employment needs.

As a recruiter in the technology and digital space for 20 years, I am increasingly engaged in discussions with organisations wishing to increase the number of females they attract and recruit into their organisations.

As it’s a highly competitive area and there are well documented gaps in the population of women working in certain technical fields, the real challenge is to implement a fully integrated gender diversity program – to attract, manage and retain top female staff.

There’s no quick fix, but here are a few important thoughts to consider when looking to make your business diversity-fit and attract more females:

1. Look in the mirror

One of the biggest reasons why organisations fail to successfully attract and retain female talent can be the perceived (and realised) culture. A full assessment of your organisation should be the first step to develop your diversity program. Questions to ask include:

  • What’s the public perception of your organisation in terms of diversity? Is it a ‘boys club run by men’ and inflexible in the adoption of flexible work arrangements?

  • What are the internal perceptions of the organisation’s approach to diversity?

  • What policies and procedures are in place to accommodate women?

  • What positive diversity messages does your organisation use to attract women?

  • Does your organisation have a specific sourcing strategy to attract women?

  • How does your organisation foster women’s career progression? Are there programs in place to nurture women’s careers once they start with the organisation? I.e. mentorships, learning and development, etc.

2. Develop a ShEVP

Tailoring your employee value proposition (EVP) to attract females can be a powerful tool. Focus on ‘what’s in it for her?’ What does the future look like? Ideally, focus on the opportunity for them rather than what the job details. Make sure you highlight the elements that will attract a female to consider a job move and offer a more personalised service to get the service they need.

3. Spring clean your house

To positively impact gender diversity, organisations need to be committed to the cause. It needs to be a top-down approach and the organisation is rallied to embrace it. Gender diversity frameworks need to be easily understood by all and simple to execute by hiring managers and leaders.

4. Change the way you write job ads

Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and women’s rights advocate Sheryl Sandberg loves citing research conducted by Hewlett-Packard that "showed that women apply for jobs only if they think they meet 100 per cent of the criteria listed, whereas men respond to the posting if they feel they meet 60 per cent of the requirements."

Therefore, writing job ads to attract women needs to be a consideration. Consider:

  • Using more descriptive wording when referring to essential skills and qualifications.

  • Including references to upskilling/cross-skilling to attract good candidates who meet ‘most’ of the job requirements.

5. Women generally want a personal connection

When people change roles they’ll naturally weigh up the pros and cons. This is a very normal process. But for women, there’s often an additional layer of questions and hurdles they have to overcome before they’re comfortable making a career move.

To assist them with their decision making, women will seek out a connection with a trusted advisor. Such relationships can’t be formed through impersonal emails, but rather through personal interactions and the accessibility of an extensive range of information that paints the whole picture of working for a potential employer – warts and all.

6. Allow time for planning

Some women take a longer period of time researching the right career steps. It might be because they’re not ready to leave their current company as they want to complete the current job exceeding all expectations.

Hesitation to leave ‘the nest’ could come from the fact that there is comfort in the ‘devil you know’, along with the brand and reputational value that’s already been built in their current company. You may need to give women more time to make the proactive stance to better their career via a change of employer, new cultures and new teams.

Hopefully, the above tips assist in working towards the goal of building a more diverse workforce, while creating an environment that women want to continue to work in.
  • About the author

About the author

Imogen Studders

Davidson Technology

Practice Leader

For the past 10 years, Imogen Studders has worked as a recruiter within prominent Australian and global organisations. As Practice Lead, Imogen is responsible for leading the delivery of Davidson Technology’s major accounts across New South Wales...