As the wave of digital transformation spreads across the world, the demand for skilled tech workers continues to rise. Tech jobs are being created at an unprecedented rate, and the talent pool is struggling to catch up; skill sets in demand by businesses shift quickly in tech, and workers can’t up skill fast enough to be able to meet rising, and ever changing, role requirements.
Businesses are struggling to fulfill their digital ambitions without the right tech skills on their teams. This growing skills gap is especially damaging for smaller companies—SMEs should be reaping the benefits of cloud computing’s democratizing power, but in reality, they can’t throw cash at talent shortage problems the way bigger corporations do. As a result, many organizations are not able to utilize the very technology that’s meant to be leveling the playing field.
A massive 6.9m people are employed in the United States’ tech sector, 4.4% of the total workforce. A total of 626,560 tech job vacancies were posted in the US in Q4 2016; an estimated 182,230 more than in 2015.
With a burning need for tech workers creating ample job opportunities, and a typical salary for tech workers almost double the national cross-industry average, it seems a no-brainer that women—who make up more than half of the U.S. workforce—would be keen to take advantage of the tech boom. But there are actually fewer women working in tech than there were in the 1980s.
The tech industry is expanding, but the female talent pool has withered. The disappearance of women in tech is a problem that stretches right from entry level roles up to the c-suite; less than 3% of total venture capital spend goes to startups with female CEOs. So how does the tech space ensure that women have access to the wealth of opportunities that it offers?
Support for women in tech should be implemented at every level, and at every stage; from grassroots education, to board-level mentorship. However, one instant fix that businesses can apply to start bringing talented female tech pros on-board now is making sure their doors are open.
It’s easy enough for a company to assume that their recruitment processes are fair and balanced, but in truth, the hiring stage can be fraught with unnecessary, even unconscious, barriers for women in tech.
As the first point of contact in the hiring process, a recruiter’s role is crucial to ensuring inclusion and diversity in the tech ecosystem. They are the gatekeepers of opportunity, and they have a huge chance to make a real difference to the tech landscape.
In the fast-paced world of recruitment, diversity can all-too-easily slip onto the back burner when you’re looking to fill positions quickly, but taking some time to focus on making your processes more inclusive will pay dividends. Here are some tips which both internal hiring managers and agency recruiters alike can use to make sure they’re not turning away outstanding female talent at the first hurdle.
Firstly, take a good hard look at your recruitment strategies; you can't improve things that you don’t analyze, so if you aren't already collecting metrics on ad responses, sourcing channels, and applicants then start now.
Gathering insights from hiring data will help you see where the best candidates are coming from, where any drop offs are occurring and why, and work out where you can smooth the road for the kind of candidates you want to attract. Put policies in place that force you to cast a wider net, or consider candidates that might otherwise not come up on your radar, like aiming for a minimum number of qualified female applicants on your shortlists.
Take care to avoid unconscious bias on your careers page, or when writing job adverts; certain ‘coded’ words and phrases can give an unfavourable impression of your company, and actually deter women from applying.
Look into alternative hiring paths to get talented women through the door. Initiatives like returnships and other supported, structured return-to-work programs can help women who've taken a career break, or who have gained valuable know-how through non-traditional channels, to upskill on the job. Meanwhile businesses get the chance to shape their new employee’s skill set, while benefiting from the knowledge, experience, and cognitive diversity returners bring to their teams.
Another key strategy that can pay off massively when it comes to hiring in the near future and beyond is to invest in women's tech communities. There are a huge number of groups doing fantastic work to help women get on-ramp to great careers in tech, and supporting their events, sponsoring their programs, and partnering with them to create a strong pipeline of talent is a no-brainer when it comes to getting access to the best talent today, and in years to come.
Zoe Morris is the Chief Operating Officer of niche IT staffing firm Frank Recruitment Group. Zoe has played a vital role in building Frank Recruitment Group into the global, award-winning specialist recruitment firm that it is today; under Zoe’s leadership, the company has consistently achieved substantial year on year growth as well as winning many industry-based awards.