There's lots happening in the world of tech to expand the recruitment opportunities for women and support their growth.
But, there’s also a big gap between the current situation and any kind of point where the gender imbalance (and recognition) shifts closer to center. Let’s recap:
- Only 25% of technology workers are women
- Women of colour are significantly underrepresented
- Half of the women who work in technology, leave by age 35
- STEM is a significantly less popular study choice for women
- Only 3% of female students see a career in technology as their #1 choice
- Of the 20% of engineering graduates who are women, 40% either quit or don’t enter the profession
So there’s barely any women coming into the industry and when they get here, they often leave. Uncomfortable statistics aren’t they?
The picture they paint is pretty bleak. Which is why the initiatives and companies that are making strides towards changing that picture, should be heralded. They certainly inspire me and I’m hoping they nudge you and other tech companies to change the situation.
Wage equality in Iceland
First, let’s visit Iceland. Not only is it one of my favourite holiday places, it also rolled out a stellar initiative in 2015. The Equal Pay Standard was conceived in 2008, launched on a voluntary basis in 2015 and then made law in 2017.
In short, they mandated that any company with more than 25 employees had to pay people equally and prove they were doing so. One of its greatest strengths is that it’s shifted the burden of proving equality, from women to corporations.
A woman no longer has to argue on her own behalf, that she’s being paid unfairly and then seek equal compensation. In Iceland, for a company to be certified, it has to prove it’s paying equally across all their roles, otherwise they’ll be the ones losing money!
Atlassian champions women
Another amazing initiative – one I used as a case study in my Master’s research – is Atlassian’s approach to addressing bias in recruitment processes.
I highly recommend reading the full analysis, but TLDR, in 2015 they noted that only 10% of new hires were women in technology and identified that they had three key issues:
- Male-centric employer branding
- A small pool of female applicants to recruit from
- Potential interview bias.
Atlassian addressed their employer branding by highlighting their team’s diversity through website imagery and showcased their benefits programs that support employees through different stages of life.
In an effort to diversify the candidate pool, they started at the beginning. They began advocating for more women to choose technology as a career and by involving themselves in sponsorships, evangelistic approaches and partnerships that more deeply support early-age engagement and interest in the industry.
They also use a product called Textio to help them revamp their job advertisements – making them more attractive to people of different cultural backgrounds. To cement all of this, they then did a lot of work around mitigating interview bias and shifted to interviewing for tangible behavioural indicators of value-alignment, rather than the mythical ‘culture-fit’.
Supporting women’s growth
Another area that's becoming more prevalent in technology and other industries, is the movement to support the successful growth of diverse employees – be that personal or professional. It’s great to see organisations dedicated to supporting and connecting women as well as companies using their platforms to empower their female team members.
Additionally, having strong, established support systems is exceptionally important to mitigate the number of people leaving the industry.
In my personal experience, I’ve been exposed to various organisations that thrive on connecting and supporting like-minded individuals. At one stage, I was lucky enough to act as a Chapter Lead for the Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN), and it always brought me great joy to see women supporting women to achieve their goals.
What’s needed to move forward?
All these initiatives genuinely inspire and give me hope for the future. But as I mentioned in the beginning, there’s still so much to do and am often at a loss to figure out what makes a difference.
Atlassian is in a fantastic position to make a difference, and Iceland is literally a whole country – I’m but one person. There’s a genuine sense of paralysis, sometimes – not just with this issue, but with a lot of social or political issues. There’s a feeling of being a single solitary drop in a (very large) bucket and unable to change things.
There's no dispute that I can certainly help effect change from a company level – and you can expect to hear more on what we are committing to here at Tiny – but what can I do myself?
It’s likely that a lot of you are asking that same question. However, if enough people start doing something, things will change and we’ll be in a very different place much sooner. So here’s my list of things that can be done to help overflow that bucket:
- Join initiatives and programs that support diversity.
I mentioned AWSN earlier, and there’s many other fantastic organisations. A couple that spring to mind are Girls in Tech, Women in Tech and Women in Technology International.
- Use inclusive language.
Little things like assuming a software engineer is male, or talking about “what he will do” when you’re hiring, add up and create an exclusionary environment for women.
- Put your hand up to be a mentor.
If you have the capacity and the time, lots of universities have mentorship programs, or you can do a call-out on LinkedIn to offer your time.
- Support the people doing the good work!
If you see an article, podcast, blog post – share it. The more eyes on an issue, the more likely you’ll see change.
- Take to the stage to share your story. If crowds don’t scare you silly, try to get involved with conferences, universities and local meet-up groups. If the stage isn’t for you, go ahead and sit in the crowd to support whoever is up there!
- Shine the spotlight on others.
Things like external awards programs or internal feedback mechanisms are a great way to highlight people doing great work.
There’s a great proverb, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and hopefully this gives some of you an idea about what that first step can look like.